22.11.2020 01:19 h

Orlando advance in wild MLS playoff win, Crew through, too

Orlando City SC, down to nine men when goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was sent off in a penalty shootout, prevailed 6-5 over New York City FC in the chaotic decider to advance in the MLS Cup playoffs on Saturday.

It was 1-1 after extra time at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, where both goals came in the first eight minutes.

Orlando players had twice celebrated what they thought was victory before Benji Michel scored the actual game-winner in the seventh round of the shootout.

That came after Orlando defender Rodrigo Schlegel made a crucial save on New York's Gudmundur Thorarinsson, Schlegel taking over in goal when Peruvian keeper Gallese was sent off after a second yellow card for coming off his line prematurely in what first appeared to be a game-winning save.

There was less drama in Columbus, where the Crew also booked a spot in the Eastern Conference semi-finals with a 3-2 victory over New York Red Bulls that spoiled head coach Gerhard Struber's debut at the helm.

It was an emotional roller-coaster in Orlando, where the hosts were down to 10 men after Brazilian back Ruan was sent off with a straight red card in the 87th minute for a spikes-up kick at Gary Mackay-Steven -- who had brought him down hard and then pushed off against Ruan's body as he hoisted himself back up.

Orlando held on through the rest of regular and extra time, and had the upper hand after Maxi Moralez missed New York City's first effort of the shootout.

Orlando made their first four attempts, so when Gallese saved Valentin Castellanos's effort on the fifth attempt for New York, the Lions were celebrating a win, only for VAR to rule Gallese moved too soon.

There was confusion as Orlando first tried to bring on backup keeper Brian Rowe before Schlegel eventually donned the gloves and surrendered a penalty to Castellanos that made it 4-4.

Orlando still had a chance to win it through Nani, but he was denied by Sean Johnson, and both teams then converted to make it 5-5.

When Schlegel stopped Thorarinsson, he zoomed off to celebrate with teammates. It was some time before referee Chapman could impress upon them that the affair wasn't over Michel got his chance and sealed the win.

"That's football," said Argentina's Schlegel, who told manager Oscar Pareja he could get the job done in goal. "It's emotion. One minute you think you won, the next you don't. ... What matters is the end result. That's the beauty of sport."

But it was an agonizing defeat for NYCFC, who had stormed home with four straight wins in the regular season but are now 2-7 in playoff games.

"Losing in this way is brutal," Anton Tinnerholm said. "Of course, last year was tough as well, but mentally this year has been maybe the toughest in our careers and to end the season this way is 2020 all over this game and the ending of the season unfortunately."

It was Tinnerholm's handball in the area that led to Orlando's opening goal, a penalty conversion by Nani in the fifth minute.

New York grabbed the equalizer two and a half minutes later through a powerful header from Luxembourg's Maxime Chanot off a corner from Jesus Medina. But they were unable to capitalize on their man advantage late in the game.

In Columbus, the third-seeded Crew booked a meeting with the winner of Tuesday's match between second-seeded Toronto and Nashville.

Red Bulls' Caden Clark opened the scoring in the 23rd but it was 1-1 at halftime thanks to Pedro Santos's penalty in the 26th.

Darlington Nagbe struck seconds into the second half to put Columbus ahead and Gyasi Zardes headed in a goal to make it 3-1 before the visitors clawed back a goal through Brian White in the 90th.