After 33 regular-season games, Orlando City SC's Audi MLS Cup Playoff bid comes down to Decision Day with a trip to face CF Montréal (3:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). But it was so nearly taken care of last weekend.
Orlando played a tight Eastern Conference game against Nashville SC, where a win would have clinched their playoff spot. With the score 1-1 deep into stoppage time, Alexandre Pato smashed a free kick off the crossbar. In an ensuing goalmouth scramble, Andres Perea bundled the ball over the line and Orlando thought they scored the winner and clinched their postseason berth.
Controversially, though, the play went to Video Review and the goal was taken away. A 1-1 draw remained.
“I don’t think we’ll ever forget what happened in the last game," Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja told media on a virtual press conference Thursday. "That was incredible… though it’s over and we have to move on.”
Though Orlando haven't clinched just yet, they are in a good spot. A win or draw on Sunday would do the trick, and a win could even vault the Lions into fourth place if other results go their way. Even with a loss they still have a chance to get through if the New York Red Bulls lose against Nashville SC (3:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes).
“Obviously going into the last game of the regular season needing a result creates more stress," Pareja said of his sixth-placed side. "… It becomes ‘no tomorrow,' you know?”
Pareja noted preparations in training are going well, with the players focused on the task at hand rather than lamenting last weekend's tie.
“We have this opportunity to not just qualify, but put the final touch (on the season) by getting three points," he added.
CFM enter Sunday needing a win to ensure a playoff berth. Dropping points against Orlando eliminates them. The upstart Canadian side is led by Djordje Mihailovic, Romell Quioto and Victor Wanyama – though enters eighth in the East.
“Montréal have been consistent in the way they play," Pareja said. "They have good players, it’s not a surprise they’ve gotten these results. They’re very competent.”