Beating CF Montreal wasn't going to be easy.
Montreal is the second seed in the Eastern Conference and has been on an incredible stretch over the second half of the season. Orlando City needed something special to go to Canada and beat the league's team to beat.
Tactically, Orlando looked sound, if unsurprising. They set up in a low block, keeping tight to the center and hoping for counterattacking opportunities.
The defensive structure did its job for over an hour. While Montreal dominated possession, it couldn't break down their opponents and and rarely threatened -- Orlando also fortunately escaped a penalty call late in the first half.
The approach, as expected, limited the Lions' own attack. Neither Ruan nor João Moutinho were able to engage in the attack at all (Moutinho was particularly restrained), and the forwards stayed too deep to pose much danger.
Even so, the team got multiple good opportunities. Playing as a defense-minded underdog, you have to take advantage of those moments, and Orlando just couldn't do it.
Ercan Kara had a beautiful opportunity about 25 minutes into the game, but, in what would turn out to be the theme for the night, he sent his golden opportunity high. With Ruan just to his right in a rare attacking moment, any ball on target would have been dangerous.
Iván Angulo likewise put a shot over the goal not long after. At this point, the momentum seemed to be shifting in Orlando's favor, but missing entirely on two good chances killed any hope of changing the game.
Antonio Carlos ended the first half with a lovely touch on a cross, setting himself up beautifully in front of the net. He too launched his shot to nowhere. The second half began nearly the same way, this time with Facundo Torres contributing an errant blast.
Having blown four good chances, Orlando was running out of opportunities, and it wasn't long until Montreal's Ismael Koné put his team up 1-0 after a clever offensive sequence that broke down the Lions' back line, finally splitting that tight center. Orlando would only get one more wild shot off before Moutinho's stoppage time foul set up the penalty kick that iced the game.
Both teams got the sort of performance they wanted out of the game.
Montreal possessed the ball, took twice as many shots as their opponent and used a steady attack to eventually get the lead. Orlando played physical football, held its compact formation for almost the entire night, and got quick open looks at the goal. Only one of those teams, though, managed to convert that solid game plan and execution into actual goals and a win.
It's a tough way for Orlando City to end a somewhat chaotic season. The team can't be too disappointed in a season that included winning a cup, and with its young talent, it has plenty to build on.
Next year, maybe a few more of those shots will find their way into the net.