Nani brace powers Lions past Minnesota United

By Official Florida FC

The best way to describe how improbable Orlando City’s run to the MLS is Back tournament is the fact the club topped a pair of opponents it had never beaten en route to the final. The latter came on Thursday night when Orlando City topped Minnesota United 3-1 in the semifinals.

Orlando City is 90 minutes away from its first trophy. The Lions will face the Portland Timbers in Tuesday’s final.

Nani scored a first-half brace to set the tournament hosts on their way. The Portugese winger abused Minnesota United fullback Hassani Dotson on his 23rd birthday.

Nani’s first came via a ball over the top from central defender Robin Jansson in the 36th minute. The 33-year-old had the power and strength to beat a man a decade younger than him to the ball to finish off the play.

Later, Dotson, wary of what Nani did to him previously, laid off the Orlando City winger. That two-yard gap allowed Nani to curl in an unstoppable shot into the far corner to double the Lions’ lead in the 42nd.

Orlando City, a team not known for scoring goals in bunches before MLS is Back began, was the first team to take a two-goal lead on Minnesota United this calendar year.

The Lions took fewer shots than the Loons, but were more clinical when the opportunities came. Minnesota finished with three shots on target, two of which were more than 20 yards away from Pedro Gallese’s goal. The only inside the penalty box was headed home by Mason Toye in the 83rd minute.

Minnesota United poured on the pressure. Toye should have equalized in the 94th minute, but his header from four yards away went wayward.

Seconds after Toye’s miss, Orlando native Benji Michel finished off the scoring in the dying seconds to kick off a celebration that appeared unlikely a month ago when Inter Miami led the Lions during the tournament’s curtain-raiser.

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