Welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday, and this week we’ll be continuing the story of Orlando City’s 2019 U.S. Open Cup campaign. Back on June 19, 2019 Orlando City had a Round of 16 Open Cup match against the New England Revolution in the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium.
Both teams were coming off back-to-back wins as Orlando had defeated Memphis 901 FC in a fourth-round USOC match-up the previous week and beaten the Montreal Impact the week before; while the Revs took care of the New York Red Bulls in their Open Cup game and had also beaten the LA Galaxy the previous week.
James O’Connor made two changes from the previous week’s starting lineup, but kept things in a 4-3-3 with Adam Grinwis again in goal. Robin Jansson and Lamine Sané were still at center back but Joao Moutinho and Ruan came in for Shane O’Neill and Alex De John at the fullback spots. Cristian Higuita, Dillon Powers, and Sacha Kljestan made up the midfield, and Chris Mueller, Santiago Patino, and Tesho Akindele were deployed as the front three. Meanwhile, the Revs set up in a 4-4-1-1 that had Matt Turner in goal; Edgar Castillo, Jalil Anibaba, Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye in defense; Wilfried Zahibo, Cristian Penilla, Scott Caldwell, and Juan Agudelo as the midfield four; with Carles Gil playing in the hole and Teal Bunbury leading the line.
As much as I would like to say that the first half was a pulsating, exciting cup tie...it just wasn’t — not for most of it anyway. Bunbury did force a save from Grinwis just three minutes in, with Penilla shooting over shortly thereafter, but those comprised the visitors’ best opportunities for the entire opening 45 minutes. Orlando, meanwhile, had a weak Higuita effort saved by Turner in the opening minutes, and Patino sent a header wide just after a quarter of an hour, but those were the Lions’ only two shots of the first half. Unfortunately, the most notable event of the half was Higuita forced off just before halftime with the dreaded “lower body injury.” The half ended with New England leading shots 7-2 but being out-possessed by the Lions, who had 57% of the ball.
Things got livelier once the second half started, but not in a way that boded well for Orlando. New England started to get some good looking chances at goal, and only a combination of wayward/unlucky finishing and excellent Grinwis saves kept things level. In the 66th minute Penilla was unable to slot home an excellent cross that really should have been converted, and just four minutes later, Revs substitute Juan Caicedo hit the post and then missed wide after recovering the rebound. It looked more and more like New England might win it late, but after Benji Michel was brought on for Mueller the Lions started to perk up. Akindele hit the post with a long drive in the 86th minute, and Powers forced a strong save from Turner scarcely a minute later. The teams couldn’t be separated though and things headed to extra time.
The late bustle of activity at the end of the 90 minutes foreshadowed the start of extra time. Michel forced a save from Turner just after the start of the first 15 minutes, and on 96 minutes the Lions finally broke through. Moutinho made a foray down the left wing and put in a cross that was behind Michel and came off his foot, falling to Carlos Ascues, who had been subbed on for the injured Higuita. Ascues fired towards goal and, while Turner made the save, the rebound fell right to Michel, who made no mistake and poked the ball into the back of the net for his very first professional goal.
The Lions weren’t finished there though. Four minutes later Ascues brought the ball into the box, where it fell for Akindele. The Canadian was off balance and poked a shot towards goal as he fell backward. It would have been an easy save for Turner, but it took a deflection off Farrell and snuck its way past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner to double Orlando’s advantage.
Nani came very close to making it 3-0 and game over right after the start of the second period of extra time, trying to lob Turner near midfield, only for the ball to land on the roof of the net. The Lions’ legs seemed to tire as the game wore on and the Revolution took advantage by sending more and more numbers forward. Before too long, their pressure paid off. Gil sent an excellent ball to the back post and all substitute Justin Rennicks had to do was nod it down and into the back of the net to give the game a nervy finish.
The Revs very nearly tied it at the death, but Caicedo’s shot was deflected out, and when nothing came of the resulting corner kick, the whistle blew to end the game and send the Lions through to the quarterfinals. While we didn’t run a player grades piece for this match, Dave Rohe highlighted in his five takeaways that both Grinwis and Powers put in excellent performances that were ultimately key in the Lions’ victory.
That’ll do it for this edition of Flashback Friday. Stay safe out there, and I’ll see you next time.