Orlando City SC vs LAFC
FT: 1 (5) – 1 (4)
Orlando City SC became the second team to punch its ticket to the semifinals on Friday, July 31st. It was the only team to do so on penalty kicks, after a tense 90 minutes that saw a gutsy side push some big names to the limit.
The first 60 minutes were largely unremarkable, aside from the fact that Orlando matched LA’s end-to-end action, making the latter look every bit like a team on short rest, which it was. Orlando’s Nani and Ruan made trouble for the Black-and-Gold while LA’s Bradley Wright-Phillips looked for a goal.
The forward found one in the 31st minute, but it was ruled out by VAR. Mark-Anthony Kaye’s through ball found Brian Rodriguez offside, canceling out the forward’s assist and BWP’s smooth finish.
Los Angeles ignited some drama in the 55′ when Diego Palacios pulled down Ruan in the box, conceding a penalty to Orlando. Kenneth Vermeer smartly saved Nani’s attempt. Minutes later, LA’s Chris Mueller picked off a ball in Orlando’s third and made a run toward the near post. His cross found Wright-Phillips in prime position for the tap-in, this time onside, putting LA up 1-0 in the 60th.
The visitors held the lead and were nearly through when, at the 90th minute, former LAFC fullback Joao Moutinho headed in a last-gasp corner that stalled LA’s momentum.
Five minutes of stoppage time weren’t nearly enough to break the deadlock, sending the match decision to a penalty shootout. Nani redeemed his earlier transgression with a simple conversion. The only shooter of the chosen ten penalty takers to miss his shot was LAFC’s Jordan Harvey. The second half substitute nailed the crossbar with LA’s first spot kick, sparing Orlando goalkeeper Andre Blake from further blushes. Kenneth Vermeer did not have the same luck, guessing wrong on all five of Orlando’s on-target shots.
Orlando will remain in the bubble for at least another week to prepare for a semifinal meeting with Minnesota United FC. You can watch the Lions battle the Loons on Thursday, August 6, at 8 PM EST on ESPN2.
Featured Image: MLS (Jared Martinez and Matthew Stith)