The MLS is Back Tournament favorite is out.
Orlando City, which has never so much as qualified for Major League Soccer’s everyone-gets-in postseason since entering the United States and Canada’s top futbol circuit in 2015, stunned Supporters Shield holders LAFC on penalties Friday in the quarterfinals of the ongoing event — a month-long World Cup-style competition created to restart MLS amid the global coronavirus pandemic — in Central Florida.
Former Manchester United and Portuguese World Cup attacker Nani scored the winning spot-kick after two LAFC players failed to convert from 12 yards:
LAFC shattered the MLS regular season points record in 2019, its second season after entering MLS as a big-spending expansion side the year before. And even without Mexican international Carlos Vela, who skipped the tournament in Florida out of concern for his pregnant wife, Bob Bradley’s team more than lived up to its pre-tourney top billing, going unbeaten in the group stage and trouncing MLS Cup champ Seattle Sounders in the round of 16 to advance to the last eight.
Things were going as expected for most of Friday’s contest, too. After having an apparent first half goal by the ageless Bradley Wright-Phillips (correctly) snuffed out for offside, LAFC keeper Kenneth Vermeer stopped Nani’s first attempt from the spot:
LAFC immediately went up the field and scored, Wright-Phillips turning home a slick pass from Diego Rossi. It was the 35-year-old Wright-Phillips’ fourth tally in LAFC’s five games in Orlando, putting him just two behind tournament scoring leader Rossi.
Just when it looked as though that would be enough, former LAFC fullback Joao Moutinho pulled the Lions level in the 90th minute. And with no extra time being used in the knockout rounds because of the heat and humidity in Orlando, the match went directly to penalties.
Orlando will meet the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal match between Minnesota United and the San Jose Earthquakes in next week’s semifinals.