As Orlando looks to secure their spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they picked up a huge late three points over New York City FC off the head of Tesho Akindele. Akindele scored in the 90+6th minute off of a header to give Orlando a huge 2-1 win. This was a very unique match with a lot of rain and several big VAR decisions. So, let's break it down.
The match-winner might have been the important result-getter, but the first goal for Orlando was a beauty. Facundo Torres played a nice ball forward to Junior Urso, who then controlled the ball really well and then fired a fierce strike into the opposite side of the net to beat one of the best keepers in the league in Sean Johnson to give Orlando the 1-0 lead in the 7th minute. This goal almost goes under the radar with everything that happened later in the match, but it shouldn't. This was a great goal.
The goal was initially ruled offsides, but VAR went back and allowed the goal (which again, is the reason that AR's are told to keep their flags down until the conclusion of the attack).
There was also another big VAR decision early in the 2nd half. Antonio Carlos was initially given a red card for a foul near the midway line in which he made contact with a NYCFC player's foot/ankle. However, after a VAR review, the red card was rescinded and instead it was just a yellow card for Carlos.
NYCFC got their equalizer in the 53rd minute off the foot of Maxi Moralez. Thiago Andrade got a takeaway in the midfield (off an errant pass from Orlando caused by pressure), he was then able to find Moralez with a through ball. Moralez was able to beat Pedro Gallese with his shot and even up the match. The through ball was able to get through to Moralez because Rodrigo Schlegel was forced to step up and pressure Andrade on the ball because he had lots of space was driving at the Orlando box. While this was a counter where Orlando didn't have their defense set up, someone needed to cut off the run of Andrade before he got all the way to Schlegel and made him make that decision to step forward and open up the lane behind him for Moralez to make the run. Orlando could have done better defending this counter (although you also have to give credit to NYCFC for executing it well).
Then came the big match-winner. Ivan Angulo took the corner and played the ball in. Orlando had several bodies on the front post, and Akindele was the one that went up and won the ball in the air and glanced it back across goal and into the opposite side of the net with just seconds left in the match. This was a huge goal (and the second straight match that Akindele scored a match-winner in the final minutes). Getting a later winner is also big, but especially in front of your home crowd and in the final few matches of the season.
There was also a good bit of rain during the match. At certain points, the match seemed to be happening on a water field with a little bit of grass on it. There was a legit downpour for a chunk in the 1st half, but the biggest lasting effect seemed to be the wetness of the grass. However, there did not seem to be any major mistakes caused by the wet ground/ball. Plus, it was one of those things where both teams had to play in the same conditions.
Junior Urso was big in the match. He not only scored Orlando's first goal, but was also a big part of the match outside of that. He completed 89.7% of his passes and made a key pass. There were several Orlando players who played well, but he was one of the ones who stuck out.
Orlando was out-possessed and out-passed in the match, but neither were overly egregious advantages. NYCFC held a slight edge in possession at 50.7%-49.3%. NYCFC also completed 83.4% of their passes, while Orlando passed at just a 79.4% clip.
Orlando held an edge in Expected Goals at 1.2 to 0.5.
The win propelled Orlando into fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points through 27 matches. Orlando is now three points clear of sixth and seventh (both of those teams are tied). Then, Orlando is four points clear of the playoff line (Cincinnati is eighth with 35 points). Orlando also still has the possibility of moving up as well, although they have some work to do. They are five points behind fourth place New York Red Bulls (and six points behind third place NYCFC). Orlando has seven matches remaining in the season. It would take a good bit to jump into the top four, but Akindele's goal at least gave them a shot at it.
Orlando is also in good form now as a whole. The Lions have now won three straight matches.
Depending on where exactly Orlando finishes in the table (and/or in the playoffs), there's a good chance that fans will look back at this goal from Tesho Akindele (plus his late winner last week) as the goals that made a huge difference for the Lions in their playoff quest.