By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx
August 6: Orlando City SC vs Minnesota United FC
In a weather-delayed semifinal on Thursday, August 6th, local team Orlando City FC downed Minnesota United 3-1, sending the Loons home and earning the right to play in the final of the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.
The first third of the match was a relatively sedate affair, with Minnesota arguably the better of the two teams on the pitch. Although they hadn’t put anything on the board, Minnesota controlled the ball well, much of the time in Orlando’s half of the field. And while the Loons hadn’t yet capitalized on their ball control, Orlando didn’t look particularly threatening in the first half-hour or so of the match.
And then came Nani.
In the 36th minute, Orlando City’s star winger Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha aka Nani, the Portuguese national team player, had a brilliant first touch on a pass from Robin Jansson, and he skillfully buried the ball in the back of the net. A few minutes later, Nani struck again, making short work of the extra space that Minnesota’s Hassani Dotson gave him in front of the ball, outside the 18 and to the left of the goal. Nani picked out his spot and sent a beautiful, curling shot to the top right corner of the goal in the 42nd minute, and Orlando went in the locker room ahead of Minnesota 2-0 at the half.
In the second half, Orlando City maintained good defensive pressure, and Minnesota did not threaten much, with only two shots on target in the match, until the 83rd minute, when Kevin Molino sent a brilliant pass to Kevin Toye, whose neat finish pulled Minnesota to within 1. In the final minutes of the match, Minnesota threw more players forward in hopes of finding the equalizer, but to no avail. In one of the final plays of the game, Orlando took advantage of Minnesota’s high position with a quick counter, with Benji Michel scoring in the 90′ + 6′ in an open net, to give Orlando City the win with a final score of 3-1.
With the win, Orlando City advances to the final of the MLS Is Back tournament, facing off against the Portland Timbers on Tuesday, August 11th at 8:30 pm EDT. The winner of the tournament will earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champion’s League competition in 2021.
Featured Image: MLS (Jared Martinez, Matthew Stith, Devin L’Amoreaux)
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