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Fort Lauderdale Strikers defender PC (pictured above celebrating with 92 – Giuseppe Gentile) scored a spectacular last-minute winner in extra time to give the Strikers a shock 2-1 win over Major League Soccer (MLS) side Orlando City SC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night at Camping World Stadium, Orlando.
The win advances the Strikers to the Open Cup Quarterfinals where they will face another MLS team, the Chicago Fire, on July 20 in Chicago. Of the eight teams remaining, Fort Lauderdale, who competes in the North American Soccer League (NASL), is the last non-MLS team in the competition.
Facing an MLS side for the second consecutive Open Cup match, the Strikers showed little fear of the home side who were coming off a 3-2 win against Toronto FC last Saturday. Strikers forward Jose Angulo opened the scoring just 12 minutes in, beating an absent Orlando defense after a long lofted cross from Geison Moura. Angulo sprung the offside trap and calmly beat Orlando goalkeeper Earl Edwards to give the Strikers an early 1-0 lead.
Kevin Molino (pictured above) equalized minutes later with a moment of brilliance featuring an individual run after a ball-winning tackle, that beat four defenders and a clever chipped finish over Strikers keeper Diego Restrepo to level things up. The match settled into a rhythm with both sides creating scoring opportunities but they went into the half time break all level.
The Lions started the game with attacking intent in the second half and went close through Harrison Heath, Antonio Nocerino, Hadji Barry and Molino who all had close range efforts that narrowly went wide. The game erupted in the 66th minute with the sending off of Orlando’s Kevin Molino and Fort Lauderdale’s Maicon Santos for fighting in what marred an otherwise open and entertaining game.
Following the red cards the match became even more open but Fort Lauderdale continued to heroically defend as Orlando piled on the pressure. Restrepo, a hero of the previous two Open Cup rounds, once again put in a stellar performance to thwart the Lions attack making eight saves throughout the night.
The Strikers took the match to extra time for the third-consecutive Open Cup match and just as it looked that the match would be decided by a penalty kick shoot off, slack Orlando marking allowed left sided defender PC to make a run across the 18-yard box before firing a low, curling effort with his right foot beyond the outstretched arms of Earl Edwards Jr. and into the back of the net.
The game concluded moments after that amid chaotic scenes as both sets of players and coaches ended up in a melee in the middle. It was a sour end to an otherwise entertaining fixture.
Orlando returns to MLS play on Monday, July 4, when it visits FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET. Head Coach Adrian Heath will have some work to do with his defense before then and after the game he remarked: “I think we’re all frustrated that we haven’t progressed. We can play better. But we had opportunities and we should’ve won the game,” Lions Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “I thought [in the] second half, when we got higher up the pitch and put them under pressure, I thought there was only one team that was going to win it. As I said, we had chances to have won the game.”
After the game Strikers Head Coach and General Manager Caio Zanardi described PC’s winner, “PC is a tremendous player, quick and dangerous on the break. He’s a guy who turned down several MLS sides to stay in Fort Lauderdale and he showed he can compete with quality on any level tonight.” The Strikers will now shift their attention to the league in the form of an #FLClasico, as the Strikers take on Miami FC on Saturday, July 2, at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Orlando City SC – GK Earl Edwards, Jr., D Brek Shea, Seb Hines, Tommy Redding, Rafael Ramos (Kevin Alston 38’), M Harrison Heath, Servando Carrasco, Tony Rocha (Adrian Winter 76’), Antonio Nocerino (Cyle Larin 86’), Kevin Molino, F Hadji Barry
Substitutes Not Used: GK Joe Bendik, D Conor Donovan, M Darwin Cerén, Richie Laryea
Fort Lauderdale – GK Diego Restrepo, D Gabriel, Gale Agbossoumonde, Julius James, PC, M Luis Felipe, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Ramon Nuñez (Matheus Carvalho 90’), Matheus Carvalho (Victor Pineda 105’), F Geison Moura, Jose Angulo (Guiseppe Gentile 82’), Maicon Santos
Substitutes Not Used: GK Bruno Cardoso, D Luis Zapata, M Bryan Arguez, Manny Gonzalez
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com