Rodrigo Schlegel became the newest hero for Orlando City Saturday afternoon when he stepped into goal during penalties and made the essential stop. It was an unlikely situation for the defender and a circumstance that will have him long remembered. The unforeseen situation also sees him join a list of other unlikely goalkeeping heroes in Orlando City history.
While Schlegel’s stop against New York City FC makes him by far the most unlikely hero, others have stepped into difficult situations before. Sean Kelley, Earl Edwards Jr., and Adam Grinwis were all players who saw little playing time in goal but were forced into being asked to stop spot kicks.
Kelley became the first of these unlikely heroes back in 2011 when starting goalkeeper and club captain Miguel Gallardo was sent off three minutes into the second half of the USL Pro Championship Game. The 23-year-old saved the first two penalties taken by the Harrisburg City Islanders, allowing the Lions to take a commanding lead. The result was the club’s first of two USL Pro Championship wins.
There were no playoff games to create a new hero when Orlando City joined MLS, but there were opportunities in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. While Adrian Heath played strong lineups in Open Cup games, Jason Kreis and James O’Connor used the early rounds for young players to gain experience. That provided opportunities for quality playing time for Edwards and Grinwis.
Edwards’ crowning moment came during the 2018 Open Cup run when the Lions traveled to Maryland to take on D.C. United. A 1-1 result ended up in penalties and Edwards got his team off to a great start, stopping a shot by Yamil Asad. A following miss by Luciano Acosta was enough for Orlando City to advance to the quarterfinals.
Last year, Grinwis became the next unlikely hero against NYCFC in one of the most memorable games in club history. While most people remember that quarterfinal match-up for the “Running of the Wall,” it would be forgotten if not for Grinwis’ heroics. The backup shot stopper saved the first penalty by Alexander Ring and the final penalty by Maxime Chanot to lift his team into the Open Cup semifinals for the first time in club history.
While Kelley, Edwards, and Grinwis all became unlikely heroes, none of these situations were as dramatic or unlikely as Schlegel on Saturday afternoon. A defender going into goal was an extraordinary situation but the way it happened made it even more spectacular.
It started with Pedro Gallese receiving his second yellow card for being no more than a couple of inches off his line. That was followed by referee Allen Chapman not knowing the substitution rules of a penalty shootout, resulting in Brian Rowe going on and off the field twice. Finally, Nani missed his penalty to send the shootout into extra kicks.
Had Gallese not been sent off, Rowe been allowed to come on, or Nani converted, Schlegel would never have made the awkward stop on Gudmundur Thorarinsson and become the hero. However, the stars lined up for the Argentine and he became the next in what has become a line of unlikely goalkeeping heroes for Orlando City.