ORLANDO – Orlando City SC faced off against Columbus Crew on Saturday night at a sold-out Exploria Stadium in the Semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup.
Columbus came off a 4-2 victory over Atlanta United, winning the best-of-three second round of the series. Orlando took care of Nashville SC with two 1-0 wins.
Orlando, Florida, USA, November 25, 2023 – Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte #28 made a crucial save in the second half at Exploria Stadium. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)
It was a clash of opposites as Orlando entered the match with one of the top five remaining defenses in the MLS, while Columbus had scored the most goals in the league.
Captain Mauricio Pereyra reached 10,000 minutes played in all competitions for Orlando City, becoming just the third Lion in the active roster to reach this milestone, alongside defender Robin Jansson and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
The match evolved into a defensive battle, with both teams taking shots, ultimately pushing the game into extra time.
Pedro Gallese had to work hard as the Crew began aggressively, pressing with multiple players from the start. Gallese fought off Columbus attacks with diving saves and blocks.
Columbus focused on getting the ball to their key scorers, Mucho Hernandez and Diego Rossi, while Orlando relied on Ivan Angulo, Doug McGuire, and Facundo Torres.
Despite being reduced to 10 men in the second half, the Lions managed several chances, especially after the first half.
The Lions had promising moments towards the end of the match. Martín Ojeda struck just wide before regulation time ended, and forward Ramiro Enrique’s diving header was saved on the doorstep by the Crew goalkeeper. City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made five saves to keep the Lions in the game.
The match ended in a goalless draw after regulation time.
According to the rules of this sudden-death round, after a regulation time tie, there are two 15-minute periods followed by penalty kicks.
Columbus broke the deadlock in the 90+3′ mark of extra time. Following two questionable non-calls, the Crew found their breakthrough after a ball was sent across the face of goal, which goalkeeper Pedro Gallese managed to palm away, but it fell to a sliding Christian Ramírez who knocked it into the net.
The second goal arrived when Orlando was caught off guard. In the 117th minute of extra time, Pedro Gallese was caught too far from the goal, near midfield. Kevin Molino found an open Cucho Hernández who dribbled past Gallese and scored into the empty net from a distance.
“I felt we could have done more tonight,” said Lions Head Coach Oscar Pareja. “But we have to accept this result against a competitive rival. It was a tough game, especially in the first half. We needed to be more reactive and positive. I’m proud of the effort the boys put in.”
I’ve made some adjustments for clarity and flow, fixing grammar and punctuation where needed.