ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – New England has done the unthinkable yet again after dispatching Orlando City 3-1 in normal time during the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals at Exploria Stadium Sunday. They shocked first place Philadelphia Union last week.
MLS Cup Playoffs: Orlando City vs. New England Revolution
A defensive masterclass, coupled with a brace from Gustavo Bou and a penalty strike from Carles Gil put Sunday’s game beyond reach as Orlando City’s cinderella run through the playoffs came to an end.
The first half saw a few costly errors give way to Orlando City an early advantage. After a silly challenge inside the box against Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution found their first goal of the game. The converted penalty–taken by Spanish native Carles Gil–became the first highlight of the evening as he coolly put it past second-string OC goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
In the 25th minute, New England added insult to injury after a crafty counterattacking effort that saw Gustavo Bou poach his seventh goal of the MLS season across all competitions. The Argentinian international celebrated with his native flag and pointed to the sky in commemoration of the memory of Argentine legend Diego Armando Maradona.
The non-calls for Orlando City turned in their favor as Adam Buksa drew the first booking of the playoff encounter. Increased chances within the box soon gave way to celebration after a dangerously lofted ball into the box. Luis Nani’s delivery almost found its target through Chris Mueller, but New England’s defensive work complicated his reception.
Instead, the crafty American winger was able to pass the ball towards the outside of the six-yard line and found an open Junior Urso who was ready to pounce on goal. With only a defender to beat, Urso converted his chance and cut the deficit to one goal with twelve minutes left to play in the first half.
The second half soon became marred with controversy after a forceful challenge from Mauricio Pereyra. The bookings kept coming for Orlando City and Pereyra’s tackle against Carles Gil soon brought another turn of the tide to this MLS Cup Semifinal. In protest of Pereyra’s ejection, Luis Nani also picked up a yellow card.
Referee Alex Chilowicz had no problem doling out cards for infractions this evening. By the end of the game, six players had been booked in spite of a few controversial missed calls, including a foul that should have been called against Adam Buksa for his challenge against Brian Rowe. The foul was eerily similar to the foul committed by Daryl Dike against Matt Turner, but Chilowicz opted for a different rationale for booking given Buksa already had a yellow to his name.
The loss of men on the field led to a loss of concentration for Orlando City. Tired legs gave way to a dismal defensive error that saw Gustavo Bou put away an easy pea roller to secure his second of the evening. Bou has now made three crucial goals in his last four games for New England Revolution in the final ten minutes of play. Clutch playmaking in the final minutes have been the Revs’ bread and butter all season long, and this game was no different for Bruce Arena’s men.
The storied MLS manager has made a living within the league by leading many a team to MLS Cup triumphs, and he is slowly building a similar framework for New England. Dispatching an attack-minded Orlando City with a precise defensive game plan proved to be the difference maker in this game as Orlando City were frustrated early on and never fully recovered.
Building on Greatness
Looking back, Orlando City SC has developed into a formidable threat within the Eastern Conference. Their growth as a team; developing players and cultivating a mentality within the roster that has infected the city, is nothing to dismiss as fans push forward into the 2020-21 season.
“I think the boys have done a tremendous job,” Pareja stated when asked to reflect on the season. Pareja and Orlando City fought tooth and nail to get Pedro Gallese to compete in this last game against New England, but were unsuccessful in securing those appeals.
“Today was one of those moments where the boys lost their head, and I have to be responsible for that. We will look back on this game in the next couple days to see what went wrong, but I thank the boys for putting in the effort and giving [fans] the vision. I’m very proud of this group.”
Young players like Mueller and Dike have blossomed into starters that can adequately hold their own on the pitch. The old guard of Nani, Pereyra and Gallese have shown plenty of tactical flair and if cooler heads prevail, their ability within 90 minutes is usually enough to get the job done.
Nicolas Vera is a Florida National News contributing writer. | email@example.com