Nine-man Orlando City SC won a penalty kick shootout for the ages, 6-5, over New York City FC on Saturday afternoon in Round One of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, all after a 1-1 draw persisted through regulation and extra time.
Benji Michel scored the game-winner in the seventh round of the shootout, with Rodrigo Schlegel making the crucial stop on NYCFC’s Gudmundur Thorarinsson to prepare the Homegrown for his game-winning play.
Orlando twice thought they’d won before Michel’s attempt, first when starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese appeared to make a game-winning PK save on Valentin Castellanos during NYCFC’s fifth attempt. But Gallese was judged to have come off his line too early and was shown a yellow card. The Peruvian goalkeeper had already been shown a yellow card for time-wasting in the second extra-time period, so he was sent off and Orlando turned to Schlegel (a center back) at goalkeeper after substitute confusion saw the Lions try to initially bring on Brian Rowe, their backup goalkeeper.
Castellanos finished past Schlegel on his second attempt, and then Sean Johnson sent the PK shootout to sudden death when he denied Nani in the fifth round. If that wasn’t dramatic enough, Orlando’s players and coaches also rushed the field after Thorarinsson was denied, seemingly unaware that the shootout was deadlocked at 5-5 and they needed to score.
Watch: Penalty kick shootout
Long before the shootout, the clubs came roaring out of the gate, and Orlando got on the board first in the 5th minute when Nani deposited a penalty kick. The chance arose after NYCFC right back Anton Tinnerholm blocked a Nani header with his raised right arm, which led to referee Allen Chapman pointing to the spot.
NYCFC answered right back, though, when center back Maxime Chanot rose highest in the 8th minute to draw the game level at 1-1. Jesus Medina whipped in a corner kick from the left, and Chanot powered home a header from close range.
Orlando had Gallese to thank for not facing a first-half deficit, with the Peruvian producing stellar saves in the 24th and 43rd minutes. The game then flipped on its head in the 87th minute when Orlando right back Ruan was shown a straight red card for violent conduct, reducing the Lions to 10 men. After a strong challenge from Gary Mackay-Steven, the Brazilian lashed out with a kick into the winger’s midsection.
When the two 15-minute extra time periods came around, NYCFC struggled to capitalize on the man advantage. If anything, Orlando could’ve grabbed a late game-winner through Tesho Akindele if the second-half substitute was sharper in front of goal.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Taking a step back from the game’s emotions, the big takeaway is Orlando have their first playoff win. For a club that missed the playoffs during its first five MLS seasons, that’s a remarkable achievement and reflects growth under head coach Oscar Pareja. To do it with 10 men through all of extra time, and end NYCFC’s four-game winning streak? That’s even more commendable. But for NYCFC, they've exited the playoffs early for the fifth straight year. They had plenty of chances to put this game to bed, only for Ronny Deila’s group to come up short.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: You could easily pick about a dozen moments here, but we’re going with when Pedro Gallese thought he stopped Valentin Castellanos in round No. 5 of the PK shootout. That would’ve sent Orlando through, but what followed was a red card, substitute confusion and plenty of drama.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Benji Michel scored the winning PK, but this has to go to Rodrigo Schlegel. The center back was thrust into playing goalkeeper after Pedro Gallese was sent off, and he came up huge to deny Gudmundur Thorarinsson. He missed on two other NYCFC penalty kicks, sure, but became a club legend when it mattered most.