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Goalkeepers Prove Their Worth in Orlando City’s Wild Playoff Match

Pedro Gallese once again proved exactly how crucial he is to the Lions’ success.

New York City FC v Orlando City SC: Round One - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Goalkeeping ended up being the difference in Orlando City’s shootout win over New York City FC. Given the save that emergency goalkeeper/hero Rodrigo Schlegel made in the shootout, that sort of goes without saying. But the importance of goalkeepers in the match was hardly limited to what we saw in possibly the most bizarre shootout of all time.

For Pedro Gallese, it’s unfortunate that he was sent off in the shootout for a couple reasons. The first, obviously, is that he wasn’t able to finish the game and also won’t be available for next weekend’s clash. It also sucks because El Pulpo made one hell of a save on Taty Castellanos’ first attempt, and given the game that he’d had up to that point, he would have immediately been immortalized in Orlando City lore. While his work in the club’s first playoff win will still be remembered, a walk-off, game-winning shootout save would have been the perfect way to top off a thoroughly magnificent day for the Peruvian.

Gallese made six saves during regulation and extra time. The numbers alone don’t tell the full story of how excellent he was though. More than one of his saves were of the outstanding variety. In the 24th minute he made a diving stop to his left from a very well struck volley by Jesus Medina. The shot was struck from about 13 yards out and took a tricky bounce just outside the six-yard box. Gallese didn’t even have the best look at it with several Orlando players partially obstructing his view, but he got down low, got two hands to the ball and made a great save.

The Peruvian’s next impressive save came in the 43rd minute, and it was easily the best of the day. Castellanos hit a powerful shot towards the net that Gallese could only parry back away from goal. The ball was met by the onrushing Keaton Parks who was in a great position to volley home an almost certain goal. It wasn’t to be though, because OCSC’s shot stopper stuck out a big right paw while still half on the ground and prevented the Lions from falling behind. It was absolutely phenomenal stuff, and truly made it seem like he had eight arms.

As spectacular as that stop was, he still wasn’t done. In the 64th minute he made a good save on a fierce drive from Medina that was destined for the side netting, and he then made a save in the 114th minute on Ronald Matarrita to help keep the game headed for penalty kicks. While the strike was hit very close to him, Gallese still did well to get two hands to it and make sure that it didn’t rebound into a dangerous area.

Much has been written and said about what Gallese and Schlegel did in the penalty shootout, so I won’t say too much about it here. Gallese did well to save Castellanos’ original kick, even though he did marginally leave his line early. Schlegel showed a massive amount of heart and courage to step up and put on the gloves in El Pulpo’s absence, and while Thórarinsson’s penalty wasn’t particularly well struck, it still needed to be saved, and Schlegel did exactly that. Perhaps more impressive than the save itself was the complete lack of hesitation from the defender in stepping up in the crucial moment and holding his nerve in an impossibly difficult situation.

At the end of the day, Gallese once again showed exactly why Orlando went out and got him during the off-season. While he was nominated for the Goalkeeper of the Year award, I feel that he often hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves for his role on this Orlando City team. He’s always capable of making one if not multiple game-changing saves, and time after time he’s been a major factor in Orlando getting results in close games.

The same was true of the club’s first ever postseason victory. For all of the drama of the penalty kick shootout, none of those heroics would have even happened if not for the superb work that Gallese did during the 120 minutes of live play. If Orlando can manage to put together a deep postseason run, then expect El Pulpo to keep showing exactly why he’s one of the best in Major League Soccer.