ORLANDO – Orlando City SC (beat NYCFC in penalty kicks (5-4) on Wednesday night to move on to the semifinals in the US Open Cup for the first time in in team history. Exploria Stadium proved to be a proving ground, as Orlando City fans showed how much they love their team, and fought to support them when they needed them most.
First, to the match. After a pretty uneventful first half, where the Lions couldn’t manage to get any shots on target, and NYCFC only had one, the teams came out for the second half with vigor.
In the 61st minute, Orlando City got on the board after Sebas Méndez won the ball at midfield, and played Nani on the left wing. The Portuguese midfielder took it down the left side and crossed a ball into the penalty area. His cross found the head of Chris Mueller at the far post, who hammered it home for the finish.
Both teams continued to battle on in the second half as their energy drained minute by minute after multiple game weeks. Fatigue definitely settled in.
The game served as City’s third match over an eight day span, having played last Wednesday and Sunday against Philadelphia. The Lions will play eight matches over the span of 26 days, with Wednesday’s game the third of that series. The team now holds a 1-1-1 record across all competitions in that time frame.
The Lions were able to hold NYCFC off to the end of regulation, but in stoppage time, their New York rivals managed to strike with seconds left.
At the 90+6 minute mark, Jesús Medina sent a ball into the Lions’ 18-yard box from just past midfield, that bounced in the area before Maxi Moralez was able to stab at the loose ball for the late equalizer.
Orlando goalkeeper Adam Grinwis expressed how the team felt at that point.
“Yeah and I would just say conceding in the 90th minute was gutting for the boys, and to go into those extra 30 minutes was a grind, and they fought with us all through that. The supporters were there, they kind of were that extra man, and we needed their energy because it was hard to bring ourselves back up after such a gutting moment.”
The extra 30 minutes were excruciating to watch as the Lions fought exhaustion, trying to make something happen.
Grinwis made several key saves in the second 15-min period, keeping Orlando in the match as the Lions kept fighting to keep the ball away with tired legs wearing down even on the substitute players.
After the two extra periods, the game went to penalty kicks.https://publish.twitter.com/oembed? url=https://twitter.com/Interior/status/463440424141459456
The Officials set up the penalty kick on the south side of the stadium, away from ‘The Wall’ (Orlando City’s supporters section), in front of seats that were not open for sale for the match.
Supporters from The Wall, incredibly, bolted from their seats, sprinted through the stadium concourse, and attempted to enter the empty seats on the south side. Exploria Stadium security attempted to corral the fans as a huge chorus of boo’s rang out form the rest of the stadium.
12 security personnel proved to be no match for 200 rabid fans, and the stadium was filled with cheers as the fans rushed into the empty seats behind the south goal.
Orlando eventually won the match 5-4 on penalty kicks, with Grinwins emerging as the night’s hero wit key blocks on PK shots from New York.
Penalty Kick Summary:
ORL – Tesho Akindele (Goal)
NYC – Alexander Ring (Save)
ORL – Kyle Smith (Goal)
NYC – Valentín Castellanos (Goal)
ORL – Dom Dwyer (Save)
NYC – Anton Tinnerholm (Goal)
ORL – Will Johnson (Goal)
NYC – Keaton Parks (Goal)
ORL – Dillon Powers (Goal)
NYC – Jesus Medina (Goal)
ORL – Uri Rosell (Goal)
NYC – Maxime Chanot (Save)
“Obviously exceptionally proud of the whole football Club.” said Orlando head coach James O’Conner “I think when you look at tonight, I think we’ve created a little bit of history. I think we won the biggest game in the Club’s history, I think, when you look at the fight, the mentality. Granted the last minute we would expect not to concede a goal like that, but I thought the composure when it did go to penalties was excellent. I thought the mentality was very strong. Just immensely proud of the supporters as well. I think when you look at the way they were tonight, they kept pushing and driving and singing and chanting and then at the end even when the penalties is on the far end for the supporters, to just not accept it and come all the way around and get behind the goal, what a special memory for the football club. Just an incredible memory for all of us here tonight.”
Orlando City returns to MLS action on Saturday when it hosts the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.