Orlando City celebrated victory twice on Saturday, but the second celebration was much sweeter after having endured a wild and jaw-dropping finish to its first playoff game.
Orlando City defender Rodrigo Schlegel jumped into the improbable role of goalkeeper and made a shocking penalty kick save, setting up a Benji Michel match-clinching penalty conversion that eliminated New York City FC and sent the Loons to an Eastern Conference quarterfinal date against the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was the hero for Orlando City during regulation, making six saves to keep NYCFC from taking control and keep the match tied after the rivals traded early first-half goals.
The teams went to a penalty shootout after a goal-less extra time, and it was Orlando City that took control following a Maxi Moralez miss with NYCFC’s first kick. Orlando City made its first three penalties, so when Gallese made a diving save to deny a Valentin Castellanos shot, the Lions celebrated, believing they had just clinched the shootout victory.
Referee Allen Chapman had other ideas, and after a VAR review, determined Gallese had jumped off his line ahead of the attempt. Chapman added to Orlando City’s misery by issuing Gallese a second yellow card that led to the second Orlando City ejection of the day (after a Ruan red card in the 87th minute).
Confusion reigned at Exploria Stadium, with Orlando City proceeding to try and insert back-up goalkeeper Brian Rowe, only to have Chapman determine that Orlando City could not make the substitution. Chapman briefly reversed that decision before ultimately sending Rowe back to the bench, which then led to Schlegel being deputized into the goalkeeper role.
Castellanos beat Schlegel easily with his penalty attempt, and Sean Johnson gave NYCFC control of the shootout when he proceeded to deny Nani’s penalty attempt with an excellent diving save.
Nicolas Acevedo and Robin Jannson traded converted penalties to set up Schlegel’s moment of glory. The Argentinian defender dove to his right and saved a weak attempt by Gudmundur Thórarinsson, kicking off premature celebrations by Orlando City, which still needed to convert its own attempt to secure victory.
Benji Michel did the rest, beating Sean Johnson with his penalty to send the Lions to the East semifinals, where they will face the winner of the Philadelphia Union/New England Revolution quarterfinal, which takes place on Tuesday.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Pedro Gallese made six saves, several which were of the top-shelf variety to keep NYCFC from taking control, and keeping Orlando City alive. His shocking ejection didn’t sour what was an excellent showing for the Peruvian goalkeeper.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Schlegel’s game-winning save. The Orlando City defender looked like a player without much experience in goal, but he reacted well to jump all over a poor attempt by Gudmundur Thórarinsson, helping the Lions secure the victory.
MATCH TO FORGET
You can’t let a field player save your penalty, under any circumstances, so Gudmundur Thórarinsson gets the nod here. Referee Allen Chapman deserves a mention here as well for his terrible handling of the closing moments of the match.