After more than 120 minutes of tense back-and-forth at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday evening, Orlando City SC advanced to their first-ever US Open Cup semifinal, outdueling New York City FC in a match that finished 1-1 after extra time, then went to the sixth round of penalty kicks to resolve by a 5-4 margin.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first half, with both teams weathering momentum shifts and attempts on goal, though only one of the teams' combined 13 shots were on target. That was a Maxime Chanot header rocketed in off a corner; Adam Grinwis made an excellent reflex save to keep NYCFC off the scoresheet, then was in position to take care of the Jesus Medina follow-up that skimmed over the crossbar.
OCSC came out of the locker room dominating second-half possession, and finally landed one of their chances in the 61st minute, when Nani motored into the box from the left flank and fired a far-post cross to Chris Mueller, which he headed in for the opener. Two NYCFC subs were responsible for finally gathering some chances late: A half-field, marauding Keaton Parks run snuffed out at the edge of the box, and an Anton Tinnerholm header that just skimmed over the crossbar.
Finally, with mere seconds remaining in the six minutes of stoppage time, Medina sent a hail Mary pass into the box that Maxi Moralez was able to free in the fracas, firing it in to get NYCFC level — and open the door to extra time.
In extra time, NYCFC stayed on the front foot throughout, though Grinwis speared a potential match-winner from Valentin Castellanos out of the air in the 112th minute to keep the Lions in it. Then, in penalty kicks, Grinwis was the hero, saving two of the six kicks to ultimately lift Orlando City.
- THE BIG PICTURE: This was going to be heartbreak for one team — either for Orlando City in giving up the late equalizer or for NYCFC squandering the momentum that equalizer brought. Now, it'll be the best of friends in the semis (or maybe not), as OCSC goes on to face Atlanta United for a spot in the finals.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: As the teams got set to take PKs on the non-Wall side of the stadium, with its seats closed off throughout the match, Lions supporters raced through the concourse to get to those prime spots closest to the shootout. Security eventually let them go general admission behind the goal, instantly creating a home-field advantage boost that at least psychologically contributed to the win.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Grinwis was huge even before the PK sequence, but there, he saved Alexander Ring's opening kick, got a hand on Castellanos' shot immediately following (which did find its way in, bringing NYCFC to 2-1 rather than 2-0), and denied Chanot in the make-or-go-home sequence to end the match.