For the second season in a row, Orlando City is playoff-bound.
Thanks to second-half goals from Sebas Mendez and Daryl Dike, and saves from Pedro Gallese, the Lions blanked CF Montreal 2-0 in Canada on Sunday to secure the sixth seed in the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“I would like to remark the effort of the players today,” said head coach Oscar Pareja. “ I would like to remark the support of our fans that, in spite of some difficult moments that we have been through the year, they believed in this group and the manifestation that they made yesterday, coming to our place and that energy is a reflection of what is happening in Orlando. Congratulations to them and congratulations to the new owners too, that has been very supportive with our group. Once again, very difficult match with urgencies today. That was not tomorrow. It must be done today here in Montreal after what happened against Nashville at home that it was very difficult to absorb. But the players showed a lot of character. I like our game, I thought we were very smart today. Tried to neutralize them and just take our special moments to find the game. So we are very pleased, very happy for the club and we will get ready for Nashville.”
Needing a win or a draw to secure a playoff spot, while Montreal needed a win, the Lions had to weather an early storm by the home side.
Montreal peppered Orlando’s defensive third for the first 20 minutes, but the backline and Pedro Gallese held firm. Montreal almost found the opener in the 16th minute, but Susuni Ibrahimm missed a tap in with the goal mouth open.
The home side would have another chance just minutes later through Joaquin Torres, but Gallese would come off his line to make a save.
Orlando would get a good chance late in the first half, as Robin Jansson’s set piece clanged off the outside of the post.
This would be the last notable chance by either side leading into halftime, with the score holding at 0-0. As the second half begun, Orlando looked to get some more possession in the midfield, subbing on Andres Perea. As the control in the middle of the park came, so did the Lions’ first goal.
A throw-in from Emmanuel Mas in the 55th minute was cleared away in Montreal’s 18-yard box and popped out to a wide-open Sebas Mendez. The midfielder, who had never scored a goal in purple, curled a shot from just outside the box up and into the top corner to give Orlando the lead on the road.
Montreal looked to have tied things up just minutes later, but the assistant’s flag went up to signal offside. On the replay, it looked like Romell Quioto was close to being onside, but ultimately the goal was waved off.
The next 25 minutes was spend holding off the desperate Montreal team as they searched for an equalizer. It would come to a head in the 79th minute however as Rudy Camacho took out Daryl Dike with his legs extended, earning him a straight red card.
Orlando would use the man advantage to their benefit as just six minutes later, Daryl Dike would finish off the game with his 10th goal of the season. A slipped-in pass by Ruan got Dike out in front of the defense, giving him enough space to round the keeper and score the game-clinching goal.
Up next …
Orlando City travels to take on Nashville SC on either Saturday, November 20th or Sunday, November 21st. The match will televise on either Univision, ABC or ESPN, depending on the scheduled day and time.
55’ – Sebas Mendez (ORL)
86’ – Daryl Dike, assisted by Ruan (ORL)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Emmanuel Más, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan (Kyle Smith, 87’); Sebastian Mendez (Uri Rosell, 89’), Jr. Urso, Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra (Rodrigo Schlegel, 87′), Silvester van der Water (Andres Perea, HT’); Daryl Dike (Tesho Akindele, 87’).
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar; Alexandre Pato, Nani, Alexander Alvarado.
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