Orlando City SC fought to the end in a narrowly contested second leg against Tigres UANL. But the away-goals tiebreaker ultimately eliminated the home team as a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium saw Liga MX’s Tigres UANL advance from the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.
Tigres will now play either Pachuca or Motagua in the quarterfinals, while Orlando are left wondering what could’ve been as they reset their sights to MLS regular-season play.
After a back-and-forth opening that saw Pedro Gallese make three saves in the first 15 minutes, Tigres broke through with the first goal of the two-leg series in the 21st minute. Midfielder Sebastián Códova put the visitors up by settling a high-arching cross from left back Jesús Angulo and slotting it home from close range.
Gallese made a multitude of acrobatic saves to keep his team alive in the second half, and Ercan Kara took advantage with an outstanding 90th-minute bicycle kick to level the score for Orlando. But the second goal needed to overcome Tigres’ away-goal advantage never materialized.
Second-half substitute Duncan McGuire had a golden opportunity to seize the win in the 97th minute when the ball fell to him in the box with Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán out of position, but he sailed his volley over the goal in what ended up being the last kick of the game.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Orlando can hold their heads high after pushing a mid-season Tigres side currently sitting third in Liga MX to the brink. Pedro Gallese appears to be in the form of his life, which is saying something for the consistently solid goalkeeper, and signs of life are brewing for the Lions' attack. After an offseason that saw many new additions for the Central Florida side, this could be the type of heartbreak that brings the group together and spurs them on to greater things.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Ercan Kara’s overhead kick to level things in the 90th minute made for arguably the most exciting seven minutes of the 2023 CCL so far. It’s unfortunate Orlando couldn’t capitalize with a second, but the outstanding goal may provide the confidence boost Kara needs to find his form.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: To the victor goes the spoils. Sebastián Códova may have only played 58 minutes in the match, but he flashed the quality and composure no one else on his team could when he scored Tigres' only goal with a classy first touch off the chest and a no-nonsense finish in the 21st minute. Códova complemented the series winner with three key passes as the key creative hub of Tigres’ attack.
- ORL: Saturday, March 18 vs. Charlotte FC | 7:30 pm ET (MLS Season Pass) | MLS regular season
- TIG: Saturday, March 18 vs. Monterrey | 9:05 pm ET | Liga MX Clausura