Orlando City SC continued their run in the US Open Cup on Wednesday as they beat Nashville in Penalty Kicks 1(6)-1(5) in Exploria Stadium. Orlando got a late equalizer from Rodrigo Schlegel to force extra time, before eventually outlasting Nashville in seven rounds of PK's.
It was a slow start in the first half with neither side seeing many chances, but Nashville took the lead early in the second half as Nashville star Hany Mukhtar poked his foot just around a defender to push the ball back across the net to the other side to score.
Schlegel got the huge equalizer in the 90+4th minute (out of six minutes of added time) to force extra time. Orlando had a dangerous free kick about 25 yards out on the right side. The ball was played into a mass of bodies by Mauricio Perevra, and was played back by Benji Michel after it just got past the hands of Elliot Panicco and it bounced in front of Schlegel who hopped up to kick it and knock it in to level the score.
Nashville also went down to 10 men early in extra time after Sean Davis was sent off for his second yellow, but Orlando was unable to capitalize with a game-winner in extra time which sent the match into penalties.
Orlando City beat Nashville SC on penalties to advance in the US Open Cup
Orlando took the early advantage 1-0 as Nashville missed their opening penalty. After both made their second penalty, Nashville drew even as Andres Perea's penalty got saved by Panicco. Orlando and Nashville both made their final two PK's to send the match to sudden death PK's after it was tied 4-4 through the first five rounds.
After a make from each side in the sixth round, Facundo Torres put Orlando up 6-5 to open up the seventh frame with a fierce shot straight into the top of the net. Then came the pivotal moment. Eric Miller stepped up facing off against Pedro Gallese. It wasn't the sharpest penalty, but Gallese dove to his right to make the save and send Orlando to the semifinals.
It was a mostly first team lineup for Orlando, which can be expected at this point in the Open Cup. Even though early on in the competition, you likely will feature several subs and youngsters, at this point is when team's start to field stronger lineups. Once you've made it to the QF's, you might as well go all in and win it.
The Open Cup is arguably the "easiest" way to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. The winner of this competition receives a bid to the CCL, which is the major confederation competition in North America. It is the CONCACAF version of the UEFA Champions League. That's where Orlando is two wins away from heading to.
Orlando held the majority of possession in the match at around a 60:40 clip. They also outshot Nashville 23-9, but Nashville was far more accurate in their shots. Nashville led the shots on target stat 6-5. Orlando was also more efficient in their passes as they completed their passes at an 83.8% rate, while Nashville completed 72.7% of their passes.
Individually, Schlegel had a strong match for Orlando. He scored the goal, but also completed 96.6% of his passes and won 14 duels. Torres had a great match in terms of distribution. He made five key passes while also completing 86.2% of his passes. Michel was also productive off the bench. He picked up the assist, completed 80% of his passes, had a key pass, and drew a foul in 57 minutes
Gallese once again had another quality match in net. He made five saves, and also had a positive match in terms of Expected Goals Allowed. Nashville had 1.17 XG, which means that Gallese kept out more goals than expected.
Orlando is the fourth of four teams to advance to the semi's, after the previous three quarterfinals had all taken place last week. Orlando joins NYRB, Sporting Kansas City, and USL-side Sacramento Republic FC.
Orlando originally entered the competition in the third round (round of 64) where the knocked off the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL Championship 2-1. Then in the round of 32, Orlando began their streak of knocking off MLS teams with a 2-1 win over Philadelphia Union.
In the Round of 16, Orlando beat rivals Inter Miami, also in penalty kicks, 1(4)-1(2). That set up this quarterfinal matchup with Nashville and means that Orlando has now won two straight matches in penalty kicks and has also beaten three MLS teams in a row (will have to make it four in a row to make the finals).
The Lions have begun to establish themselves as strong Open Cup producers, as Orlando made it to the semi's in the last edition of the Open Cup as well (in 2019, as the 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled), but fell to eventual champions Atlanta.
The semifinal match against New York is scheduled for July 27th and will once again be in Orlando. The US Open Cup Final is scheduled for early September even though the date is not yet locked in.