Orlando City SC’s first Concacaf Champions League experience was short, but memorable, with the Lions pushing 2020 champions Tigres UANL to the brink before being eliminated on the away-goals tiebreaker following a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium in the Round of 16 second leg Wednesday night.
The result was a bitter pill for Orlando coach Oscar Pareja, who saw his team equalize on a stunning Ercan Kara bicycle kick in the 90th minute, but squander a golden chance to advance with a miss by Duncan McGuire at the death.
"It just showed that this team did not give up at all,” Pareja said in his post-match press conference. “We pushed, pushed, pushed and then we found the game probably later on than we want obviously in the 89th minute. But after that, I thought we had the energy to score the other one, including that option that Duncan has, but it could be one more or two more.”
Pareja was adamant referee Said Martínez should have added more additional time than the five minutes put up on fourth official Selvin Brown's board in the aftermath of Kara’s dramatic leveler.
“We’re not bad losers,” Pareja said. “We’re respectful, but we’re not stupid.”
The Lions' head coach sprinted onto the field after the final whistle to confront Martinez, who showed Pareja a post-match red card.
“Whether it was because their goalkeeper wasn’t playing, not restarting, substitutions and even the celebration of the goal,” Pareja said. "They need to understand that, and we saw it in the World Cup, guys. You give minutes, but they’re wasting time, they need to add more time. That's what I’m saying. Listen, we are respectful, and I want to say it again, but we're not stupid. We’re not.”
Although disappointed with the early exit, Pareja said the experience of competing in the CCL and going toe-to-toe over the course of two evenly-matched legs with one of Liga MX’s top squads proves Orlando are “on the map of the best” regionally.
“Now we have in front of us a big challenge, which is what's next and how can we grow with this experience,” Pareja said. “We’ll do [it]. Obviously it is a quick turnaround because we have the league in front of us over the weekend. But today there is a lot of positive things for the boys, for sure.”