Orlando City SC secured a top-four berth in the Eastern Conference with a dramatic 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium, getting a late game-winner from Benji Michel after going down to 10 men. As well as locking up an Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs home match for the Lions, the result eliminated Columbus from contention for the Supporters’ Shield.
The goal was made even more dramatic by Nani receiving a red card in the 52nd minute after a Video Review decision. The Orlando DP came into a challenge with Artur, prompting the extra look and tilting the game’s complexion.
With a man advantage, Columbus wasted little time in finding an equalizer in the 56th minute through Harrison Afful. The outside back made it 1-1 with a left-footed rocket that fizzed past Pedro Gallese.
Before the wild second half, Orlando opened the scoring in the 27th minute through Chris Mueller. The Lions’ winger collected a pass from Pereyra on the right side of the 18-yard box and picked out the far corner for the 1-0 lead.
It got lost in the shuffle somewhat, but Orlando nearly doubled their advantage in the 30th minute, were it not for an incredible double-save from Room. He first kicked away a Kyle Smith shot, then parried wide another Smith effort on the second look.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Orlando left it late, but clinched a home playoff game in dramatic fashion after overcoming Nani’s second-half red card. Considering Orlando missed the playoffs during their five prior MLS seasons, it really puts into context the job Oscar Pareja has done in his first year as head coach. For Columbus, they’re now out of the Supporters’ Shield race after previously leading for much of the season. They’re still one of the East’s top teams, but now face a threat of losing a top-four spot to NYCFC on Decision Day presented by AT&T.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The Nani red card drew plenty of controversy, not to mention outrage from Orlando players and supporters alike. This game had serious playoff implications, and the Video Review only added to the plot.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Mauricio Pereyra had two assists and pulled the strings for Orlando, particularly in the first half before they went down to 10 men. The Uruguayan midfielder is set to miss their Decision Day match through yellow-card accumulation, but his vision and tempo inject so much quality into Oscar Pareja’s side.