KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Orlando City have a point to make, and so far, they're driving it home.
New York City FC might have gotten the coveted 20th spot in MLS, but the Lions still want in – and they figure knocking top-flight opponents out of the US Open Cup is a good way to get the message across.
“It's another MLS notch,” defender Justin Clark said after Orlando City's 1-0 fourth-round victory over Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night, which knocked the 2012 champions out of the tournament. “Last round was the Colorado Rapids, so this is another MLS scalp. We're going to keep knocking until they let us in.”
That sentiment also applies to individual players, who hope the Lions' USL PRO success and a deep Cup run will get them noticed by MLS clubs.
“We've got a lot of guys that we believe have the talent to play in MLS, so I think we have a lot to prove and a lot to show,” said goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo, who made four saves in the shutout. “And that's been the case in the last few games. We've got some guys that have played outstanding, have shown that they can play in the league any time, so we're really happy about that.”
The Lions, who became Sporting's USL PRO affiliate this year, also wanted to prove that they could win without their four loanees from Kansas City: forward Dom Dwyer (who has 18 goals across all competitions, including a record 15 already in league play), goalkeeper Jon Kempin, defender Yann Songo'o and midfielder Christian Duke.
All four were precluded from playing on Wednesday, under the loan agreement between the two clubs.
“Speaking for myself, I haven't played much because of Yann Songo'o,” Clark said. “So they probably figured, 'Oh, there's a new player coming in, probably hasn't played much.' I think they definitely wrote us off.”
But Orlando City were doing fine even before the loanees showed up, manager Adrian Heath said in his postmatch news conference.
“People forget that we broke all the records last year,” he said. “Most goals, most wins, most points.”
Nobody can take the Lions lightly now, though, after Wednesday night's result.
“We've been the best team in the league, in our league, for the past three years,” Gallardo told MLSsoccer.com. “It was one of our goals to advance farther in the Open Cup this year, and we've accomplished that so far. But we're not content. We want more, and so we're ready to advance to the next round.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.