Orlando City moves into MLS Eastern Conference semi-final after sudden death penalty drama

Five years, eight months and fourteen days it took for Orlando to finally reach a play off game since joining Major League Soccer and if that wait wasn’t long enough, the Lions found a way to prolong the agony as to whether they would progress through to the MLS Eastern Conference semi finals.

It was on Sunday 8th March 2015 that Orlando played its first ever MLS game against New York City FC at the Citrus Bowl. That game would have a dramatic twist as well as Kaká scored a last minute equalizer to snatch a point and of course, fate would have it that some 2086 days later, New York would be the visitor for the clubs first play off encounter just up the road at Exploria Stadium.

The game started positively as Orlando went on the attack and a fifth minute penalty from Nani (pictured above) saw the home side go ahead. The lead didn’t last long though as Maxime Chanot (pictured below) headed home a NYCFC corner three minutes later to restore parity.

The game then settled down as both teams fought for superiority and given what was at stake, tempers started to get riled. Referee Allan Chapman did well to keep a lid on it as he called both captains together to urge their men to calm down and for a while it worked. Then, in the 87th minute, Orlando’s Ruan broke away on the right flank only to be brought to a halt by a flailing arm from Gary Mackay-Steven. Having been booked ten minutes earlier, Ruan then earned a red card for his second yellow card offence for his reaction to the challenge while Mackay-Steven escaped with a yellow.

Extra time came and went and then it was onto the real drama. It started from the first spot kick as Maxi Moralez (pictured above) went first for New York. His effort hit the underside of the bar but crucially bounced back out rather than into the net. Tesho Akindele then stepped up and gave Orlando the 1-0 lead but as he did so he might have reflected on the opportunity he wasted right at the end of normal time where he could have scored a game winner as with the whole goal to tap home into, he somehow scooped his effort high and over the crossbar.

New York’s Jesús Medina, Tony Rocha and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Orlando’s Andrés Perea, Antônio Carlos, Júnior Urso all then scored for their respective sides to make it 4-3 to the home side. Valentín Castellanos then knew he had to step up and score for the visitors to extend things, effectively making it sudden death, and this is when things started to go a little stir crazy.

Castellanos (pictured above) sent his kick to the left side and Pedro Gallese read it and pulled off a fine save to send the home fans wild. The players and coaching staff all ran on the field believing they had won the game but Chapman and VAR decided otherwise.

Gallese had moved off his line when the spot kick was taken they deemed and to make matters worse for Orlando, Gallese then received a second yellow card to add to his previous one in the game (for time wasting) and the Peruvian keeper was shown the red card and asked to leave the field.

The next part of the farce was comical as Orlando sent on substitute goalkeeper Brian Rowe (pictured below) to face the retake but just as Castellanos was about to take it, Chapman correctly decided that Rowe wasn’t an eligible player because Orlando couldn’t make a substitution after the end of play for a goalkeeper who had been sent off in the penalties phase and that they had already made all of the five substitutions they were allowed anyway.

So Rowe trotted back to the touchline and defender Rodrigo Schlegel went in goal. Castellanous, by now, had been waiting several minutes for his reprieve and he made no mistake second time around as he rolled the ball into the right hand corner of the net to make it 4-4.

This then left Nani with an opportunity to seal the game for the men in purple and naturally, his effort, after scoring from the spot earlier, was  well saved by Sean Johnson in the New York goal. In theory, the visitors now had the advantage and when Nicolás Acevedo made it 5-4 to the Pigeons, many Orlando feared the worst as Robin Jansson came forward to try to level things up. The Swede made no mistake though and that seemed to boy his side up.

Despite stand in keeper Schlegel looking like he had no idea what to do in goal, with his arms flailing around like an octopus, and then leaving plenty of room to the left, Gudmundur Thórainsson then inexplicably chose to shoot to the right. Schlegal made a fine save to keep the ball out but as he celebrated the farce worsened as Chapman made a check with VAR to make sure the save was legal. Remarkably, Chapman indicated the save was clean and Orlando celebrated again, this time as if they had won the game for a second time.

Players and staff again joined in before New York players surrounded Chapman to ensure that he knew that Orlando still had to take and score another penalty to win the game. By now, the whole penalty saga had taken nearly 25 minutes as Benji Michel (pictured below) stepped forward with an opportunity to finally seal the game for the Lions. The Orlando native took his chance with a fine penalty high to the left hand side giving Johnson no chance and the shenanigans were brought to a halt as Orlando celebrated for a third and final time with the 6-5 penalty shoot out win.

After the game Orlando Head Coach Oscar Perrara said: “I think we need more time to calm down and reflect on what happened tonight. The analysis of the game, it may wait for tomorrow when we can analyze the soccer side. “

“What just happened at the end, I never saw it before and this is the beauty of this game that we’re humans and full of emotions and mistakes and good things and all of that. Today, the ball bounced our way, well deserved. The boys showed today the heart of this franchise. They showed all of that intensity and sacrifice, after we lost Ruan and also what happened in the PKs and just bouncing back from that from what just happened and all those things.”

“The people in the stadium telling us how much we miss them in our games, telling us that this sport is beautiful. Obviously we need to make many corrections and many things that happened in that last part, but we are proud to represent this community. We are proud to win and beat one of the best teams in Major League Soccer with 10 men on the field, multiplying themselves for this team. That made me very proud. We will prepare for the next game because this doesn’t stop, but what happened today I will keep in my memory forever.”

Orlando will now move onto the Eastern Conference Semi-finals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs where they will play the winner of the Philadelphia Union v New England Revolution game on Sunday 29th November.


Orlando City SC – GK Pedro Gallese; D Kyle Smith (Rodrigo Schlegel 101’), Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; M Chris Mueller (Kamal Miller 90+4’), Uri Rosell (Andrés Perea 83’), Júnior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra (Benji Michel 106’); F Nani ©, Daryl Dike (Tesho Akindele 83’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Brian Rowe; D Alex De John; M Joey DeZart; F Matheus Aiás

New York City FC – GK Sean Johnson; D Ronald Matarrita (Gudmundur Thórainsson 115’), Alexander Callens (Joe Scally 120+1’), Maxime Chanot, Anton Tinnerholm (Sebastien Ibeagha 90+5’); M Alexander Ring © (Tony Rocha 115’), Keaton Parks (Nicolás Acevedo 90+5’), Gary Mackay-Steven (Ismael Tajouri-Shradi 90+5’), Maxi Moralez, Jesús Medina; F Valentín Castellanos

Substitutes Not Used: GK Brad Stuver; M Justin Haak, Juan Torres

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com


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