Rodrigo Schlegel heroics help Orlando top NYCFC in penalties

Rodrigo Schlegel

A humid, cloudy day in Orlando set the tone for one of the most physical, tantalizing MLS playoff matches in recent memory. Multiple fights, nine yellow cards, two red cards, and ten minutes of stoppage time headlined the cagey affair. It was Orlando that would be the victor, topping NYCFC 6-5 on penalties in the MLS playoff first-round matchup, thanks to the heroics of Rodrigo Schlegel. The Lions advance to the conference semi-finals, winning their first playoff match in franchise history.

Rodrigo Schlegel saves penalty, Orlando win first playoff match ever

Early Goals Aplenty

A match billed with two of the more prolific attacking sides in MLS came to fruition early on. Following numerous chances, it was the home team that would strike first. In the 4’, A wary handball from Anton Tinnerholm sends Orlando to a trip from the spot. Orlando’s record signing Nani shows his composure and finishes with a clinical strike in the bottom-right corner. 

Nani’s Seventh goal of the 2020 campaign marks the first playoff goal in Orlando’s playoff history. Tinnerholm’s first penalty concede this season shines a similar shadow from a club still vying for their first playoff win in franchise history. 

However, unlike City’s playoff matches of old, the Pigeons show their resilience that was mirrored throughout the season. 7’ in, Jesus Medina’s in-swinging cross finds the centre back Maxime Chanot for the equalizer. 

Chanot’s first goal in two years evened the sides at 1-1.

Gallese to the Rescue

Pedro Gallese’s heroic goalkeeping highlights the rest of the first half.. An ALL-MLS first contender, Gallese’s goalkeeping prowess showed in one of the saves of the season.

Gallese’s goalkeeping matching with a Robin Janson led backline kept City off the scoresheet in the first half.

A Cagey Second Half

The anticipation and nerves of playoff soccer come with it the intensity. Back and forths, aggressive 50-50’s, and physical challenges highlighted a nervy second half in Orlando. The physical play culminated in the 79′ when Ruan’s heavy challenge on a header by Anton Tinnerholn resulting in a lengthy stoppage.

Ruan’s challenge led to a yellow, but viewers and journalists alike questioned if more action should be taken.

It wouldn’t take long for the tension’s to boil over. Just five minutes later, a heavy challenge from Gary Mackay-Stevens on Ruan culminates in Ruan kicking the Scottish winger in the leg after the play. Head official Alan Chapman had seen enough of Ruan’s play and issued him the red.

Ruan’s first red card since dawning Lion’s purple saw Orlando City with 10 men for the duration of the match.

With tension’s and chances aplenty, neither side could find the back of the net in the 2nd half or extra time, sending the match to penalties.

Moralez’s miss the supposed difference

Stepping up to the spot, NYCFC designated player Maxi Moralez went bar down and out on the first penalty of the evening. A key foot by Pedro Gallese kept the ball from crossing the end line.

Moralez was a measly 4/8 on penalties in 2019, and his first penalty miss of 2020 appeared to be the deciding factor.

Orlando was clinical on their attempts, going a perfect 4/4 in the shootout leading up to round five. One NYCFC’s fifth attempt, Gallese went off the line when he saved Tati Castellanos’s attempt, giving him his second yellow card. With no substitutions left for Orlando, backup keeper Brian Rowe couldn’t come on the pitch, forcing defender Rodrigo Schlegel in goal.

NYCFC’s lifeline was granted, when Sean Johnson saved Nani’s winner, sending the penalties to sudden death.

Rodrigo Schlegel emerges as the hero

In round seven of penalties, Orlando right back Rodrigo Schlegel saved Gudmundur Thorarinsson’s penalty. Following celebrations in Orlando, Benji Michel seals the winner with a clinical slot past Sean Johnson.

With Orlando’s win, the Lions turn their attention to next Sunday night for their conference semi-final matchup. Orlando City will take on the winner of the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution. The higher seed is set to play host.

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