The result makes it first-round exits for Orlando in back-to-back years after advancing to the East semifinals in 2020, bringing an end to a 2022 campaign that saw the Lions win their first major trophy. Despite the disappointing conclusion, Orlando saw a long-awaited milestone achieved through winning the US Open Cup – their first silverware in eight seasons as an MLS club – and claiming the 2023 Concacaf Champions League berth that comes with it. The competition's first leg is scheduled for March 7-9.
"It has been a very good season for the club, for the boys," Orlando head coach Óscar Pareja said. "Obviously, we want to give the big prize, our best prize to the fans. That's winning the MLS Cup, but we're growing, and [next] year we get the right to play the most prestigious international tournament in the continent."
Sunday's match was there for the taking until deep in the second half, with Orlando left ruing some missed chances at opening the scoring against CF Montréal goalkeeper James Pantemis that Pareja said could have changed the complexion of the game.
"We had our chances, especially in the first half. In this kind of game, you have to be decisive and you have to finish," Pareja said.
Instead, it was Ismaël Koné capping a terrific team goal by CFMTL in the 68th minute, putting the Stade Saputo crowd on hand to watch the club's first playoff game in six years into raptures.
"We didn't close our gaps on the right side, and then [Kei] Kamara just finds Koné and made that connection, and then we were separate from our defenders in that moment," Pareja said.
That lapse on defense not only led to the match winner for Montréal, but undoubtedly to several thoughts of "what if?" for Orlando, considering their own scoring opportunities earlier in the match ultimately went begging.
"The boys did a good job on being present on the times that we needed, but we agree, we had our chances, and in these games, you have to score," Pareja added. "If you have one, you have two, you have three, you have four, as we did today, you have to put the ball in the back of the net, and it didn't happen."
Despite seeing their quest to win MLS Cup come to a close on Canadian soil, Pareja praised his group for their efforts not just on the night, but throughout the 2022 season as a whole.
"They made us very proud. They took this club to a different level, and I think our fans and our people should be very proud of the season that the boys [had]," he said.
HIGHLIGHTS: CF Montréal vs. Orlando City SC | October 16, 2022