ORLANDO, Fla. – Crazy.
That is the only way to describe the penalty-kick shootout that decided New York City FC’s fate in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs Saturday.
City suffered yet another early elimination and disappointment in a surreal end to the match.
For the record, Orlando City SC won the shootout, 6-5, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium. The Lions had two players red-carded – one in regulation, the other during the tie-breaker, which added to the drama and confusion of the encounter.
It was the fifth successive year in which NYCFC had been shown the postseason door early on.
The unlikely hero was Orlando City SC substitute right back Rodrigo Schlegel. He denied Gudmundur Thórarinsson’s PK attempt after minutes of mind-boggling confusion.
Benji Michel converted the game-winner.
What had to make this so much more frustrating for NYCFC is that the visitors played the final 33 minutes (and 12 minutes of stoppage time) with a man advantage after Ruan was red carded in the 87th minute.
“I’m very, very devastated of course, it’s tough to lose a game like this,” NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila told reporters during a postmatch video press conference. “I think we did a really really good game up to we get to the 11 against 10. We controlled them good, had more chances than them. I felt we were the dominant team. After they get 10 men, I think we lost focus, discipline, organization and then I think they were more dangerous than us in that period.”
Deila wasn’t alone.
“Losing in this way is brutal,” right back Anton Tinnerholm said. “Of course, last year was tough as well, but mentally this year has been maybe the toughest in our careers and to end the season this way is 2020 all over this game and the ending of the season unfortunately.”
The teams then battled through a pair of 15-minute scoreless extratime periods to force the tie-breaker.
Leading up to the confusion, here is what transpired:
Orlando City enjoyed a 4-3 lead as Valentin Castellanos was ready to take his attempt for NYCFC. The Argentine forward needed to put his attempt away for the visitors to have a lifeline. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, however, dived to his right to deny the NYCFC player and the hosts started their celebration.
However, it was ruled that Gallese had delayed the start of play and he subsequently was red carded. Castellanos was given another chance to convert.
That’s when things got crazy.
Lions head coach Oscar Pareja tried to bring on back-up goalkeeper Brian Rowe to replace Gallese, as the sixth substitution (in an extratime match), but it was not allowed. Instead, he had to put Schlegel, who replaced Kyle Smith in the net in the 101st minute.
Castellanos put his second opportunity away. Johnson then denied Nani.
The teams then traded PKs, as Nicolas Acevedo tallied for NYCFC and Robin Jansson did the same for the hosts.
Rodrigo Schlegel then stopped Gudmundur Thórarinsson with a two-handed save before Michel put his attempt away into the upper left for the winner.
Maxi Moralez, who has a history of failing to score off PKs, hit the crossbar as the ball bounded out. Jesus Media, Tony Rocha and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi converted their attempts.
For the Lions, Tesho Akindele, Andrés Perea, Antônio Carlos and Júnior Urso put in their shots during the shootout.
“I think we need more time to calm down and reflect on what happened tonight,” Pareja said. “The analysis of the game, it may wait for tomorrow when we can analyze the soccer side. What just happened at the end, I never saw it before and this is the beauty of this game that we’re humans and full of emotions and mistakes and good things and all of that.”
With the game only five minutes old, the Lions drew first bood on Nani’s penalty kick after NYCFC right back Anton Tinnerholm was called for a handball in the box. Nani’s header went off his arm.
Nani then fired his attempt into the lower right corner for a 1-0 lead
City, however, regrouped quickly enough and equalized only three minutes later. Medina whipped in a corner kick from the right side that center back Maxime Chanot headed home in traffic for a 1-1 tie in the eighth minute.
The visitors forced the action in the opening half and could have grabbed the lead if not for the outstanding work of Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
The game’s complexion changed during in 10-minute span late in the second half.
In the 77th minute, Ruan was yellow carded by referee Allen Chapman for a hard foul on Tinnerholm. Ten minutes later, the Orlando City player saw red after retaliating against Gary Mackay-Steven’s tackle. That left NYCFC a man up for the remainder of the match.