No need to pinch yourselves, Lions fans. It really happened. Orlando City is heading to the semifinals of the MLS is Back Tournament after a thrilling victory on penalty kicks.
A year and two weeks after eliminating New York City FC in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup at Exploria Stadium, it was Nani, about 20 miles south at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, beating Kenneth Vermeer to send Orlando through to the semifinal with victory over the defending MLS Supporters’ Shield winners, Los Angeles FC.
“We are very proud of the group of players who have done an excellent job today and stayed in the game that needed a lot of heart and decide and determination and I think they accomplished that in those 90 plus minutes,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game, “The game rewarded them because they were the best team on the field. They were patient in the difficult moments, and I want to highlight that, the heart of the team and the club. We want to share that with our fans and the people who is starting to believe in and the people who have believed in us all the time. We’re ready to move forward, but congratulations to our players.”
For all the pretty soccer that Orlando has played throughout the tournament, with three wins through their first four games, the Lions faced their toughest test yet against Bob Bradley‘s side, which came into the match with 15 goals from their previous four games in the tournament.
Though Orlando was arguably the better side throughout the night, it was LAFC that finally broke through with the opening goal when Bradley Wright-Phillips, who had a goal called off by VAR in the 32nd minute, tucked home a cross from Diego Rossi to put LA up 1-0 in the 60th minute on their first official shot of the night.
Orlando City was down, but not out.
The Lions fought back, pressuring LAFC’s defense with a battering of chances in the final half hour before João Moutinho, the former first overall SuperDraft pick by LAFC back in 2018, headed home a Nani corner kick to level the match and help force a 1-1 scoreline after 90 minutes, sending the game straight into a penalty kick shootout.
“We knew that they left big windows with a lot of space on defending set pieces,” Moutinho said of his goal, “I was in charge of going to the back post on our attacking set-pieces, corners and free-kicks, so I knew I had some space there.”
Jordan Harvey shot his penalty off the bar, the only one missed of 10 penalty attempts, as the Lions out-dueled Los Angeles to survive and move one win closer to a 2021 Champions League berth.
60′ – Diego Rossi (LAFC)
90′ – Joao Moutinho (Orlando City)
|Francisco Ginella – Goal|
Jordan Harvey – Miss
Diego Rossi – Goal
Bryan Rodriguez – Goal
Latif Blessing – Goal
|Maruicio Pereyra – Goal|
Kyle Smith – Goal
Joao Moutinho – Goal
Antonio Carlos – Goal
Nani – Goal
How the Lions lined up
Starting XI: Pedro Gallese; Ruan, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson (Kyle Smith, 80′), Joao Moutinho; Uri Rosell (Andres Parea, 71′), Sebastian Mendez (Santiago Patiño, 89′); Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 45′), Mauricio Pereyra, Nani; Tesho Akindele (Daryl Dike, 71′)
Bench: Alex DeJohn, Kamal Miller, Junior Urso, Brian Rowe, Rodrigo Schlegel, Joey Dezart, Robinho,
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