Orlando City bow out of Champions League after late flurry falls short

Mar 15, 2023; Orlando, FL, USA;  Orlando City SC defender Rodrigo Schlegel (15) controls the ball
Mar 15, 2023; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City SC defender Rodrigo Schlegel (15) controls the ball / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City had one final opportunity to escape its opening round tie against Tigres with a victory. The Lions earned a late set-piece opportunity in the dying seconds of stoppage time.

Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman punched the ball out of the area, but it fell for Orlando striker Duncan McGuire in the box. The rookie forward made clean contact, but his striker sailed over the bar and the final whistle blew and the visitors walked away with the victory.

Orlando City drew 1-1 with Tigres UANL Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium in the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League tie. With the away goal, Tigres advanced to the next round of the tournament.

"We are proud of the effort that we showed during the game," Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja said postgame.

Pareja said he was frustrated with how Tigres closed out the game. Orlando's skipper said Tigres didn't allow the Lions to play after equalizing the game in stoppage time. The Lions frustration boiled over into the tunnel post game when the teams got into a shouting match.

"We are respectful, but we're not stupid," Pareja said.

Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese stole the show for the fifth time in as many games for the Lions. Gallese made seven saves in the match, and his efforts gave the Lions an opportunity to steal the game late.

The night felt like a proper Champions League occasion in downtown Orlando. Thousands of fans from across the continent donned the blue and yellow of Tigres and filled the south end of Exploria Stadium.

Orlando's fans weren't to be outdone, however. The Wall was packed to capacity and the stadium bustled with energy from the opening whistle.

The visitors looked the better team much of the first half. A sloppy switch attempt from Orlando winger Martín Ojeda was intercepted, and Tigres forced Pedro Gallese into an early save. Uruguayan playmaker Fernando Gorriarán forced Gallese to make another save with a free-kick soon after.

The Lions finally found their feet in possession. Orlando combined down the left flank and lifted a ball into the box for winger Iván Angulo. The Colombian turned in the box and fired a shot just past the top-right corner.

Tigres quickly got out in transition. Mexican international Sebastian Cordova capped off the lethal counter-attack when he brought the ball down in the box and beat Gallese for the first goal of the night.

Cordova's goal meant Orlando would have to win outright to advance to the next round.

The Lions had the better of the chances after the Tigres goal. Orlando absorbed a wave of pressure from the visitors, but the defense held firm and didn't surrender any clear chances. Orlando City eventually got hold of the ball and continued to attack down the left flank.

The duo of left back Luca Petrasso and winger Facundo Torres combined several times down the touchline and tested the Tigres defenders with crosses. The Lions' best chance of the first half came deep into stoppage time.

Torres slipped the ball in behind to Petrasso who whipped in a cut back to the penalty spot. Ojeda beat his defender and ripped a shot on goal, but his countryman Nahuel Guzman held his line and kept the ball out of the net. Tigres nearly scored after the chance but went into halftime up 1-0.

Orlando put the Mexican giants under pressure early in the second half. Angulo attacked the backline and earned a corner when his cutback was blocked by Guzman. The Lions couldn't capitalize on the early pressure, though.

Tigres continued to pounce on the counter attack. Center back Samir Caetano picked up the ball in transition and earned a free kick in front of the Orlando goal. Fellow defender Rafael Carioca ripped a low line drive at Gallese, and the Peruvian made a diving save to his left.

Cordova came off midway through the second half, and Tigres replaced him with an even bigger Mexican national team star: Diego Lainez. The Real Betis loanee caused havoc on Orlado's right side.

Tigres nearly scored a second on another quick breakaway chance. Striker Nicolas Ibañez broke through the defense and toasted Orlando center back Rodrigo Schlegel at the top of the box. The Argentine was through on goal, but Gallese made a miraculous left-handed save.

Ibañez had another chance in on goal, and the Peruvian held firm once again with kick save.

Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja emptied the tank in the 75th minute. The manager brought in striker Ercan Kara, winger GG and midfielder Dagur Dan TH with the Lions needing two goals in the final 15 minutes.

Kara created Orlando's best chance of the night almost immediately after coming on. The Austrian striker received a pass in the penalty box, and slipped a back heel pass to Torres. The Uruguayan's shot wasn't enough to seriously test Guzman, though.

Lainez nearly iced the game in the final minutes of normal time. He combined with Ibañez and the ball came to Luis Quiñones wide-open in the box. Once again, Gallese was ther for a monster save. The Peruvian No. 1 robbed Tigres of their second on the ensuing corner kick, as well.

TT stood over a free kick just outside the Tigres penalty box. He forced Guzman to make a save and gave the Lions a corner kick. The ball was whipped into the area and the Argentine goalkeeper tipped the ball into the air.

Kara positioned himself in the box and sprung an acrobatic bicycle kick attempt. The Austrian made perfect contact with the ball and placed his finish into the side netting.

His goal tied the match, but Orlando needed one more to advance to the next round due to away goals.

"This team did not give up at all, we push, push, push," Pareja said about his team's late charge in the game.

Tigres entered into the Concacaf Dark Arts late in the match. The visitors did everything in their power to delay the game and limit any more Orlando chances. The Lions nearly stole the match in the final seconds, but Duncan McGuire's shot sailed over the bar and Tigres advanced to the next round.

Orlando City returns to Major League Soccer action Saturday when the Lions host Charlotte FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium and the game will be streamed on Apple TV's MLS Season Pass.