By Official Florida FC
The ride is over for Orlando City.
The Lions’ first journey to the MLS Cup Playoffs ended on Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 loss at Exploria Stadium. The New England Revolution, fresh off handing Supporter’s Shield winners Philadelphia Union its first home loss of 2020 on Tuesday night, came to central Florida and produced another upset.
Orlando was 6-1-4 at Exploria Stadium entering Sunday’s match. But, their home fortress was no match for a New England side that tied for a league-high five road wins in 2020.
“I think the boys have done a tremendous job during the season just putting the club, and the team, (where) we are in this stage where we were close to (advancing),” Orlando City manager Oscar Pareja told the club’s website afterward. “Being recognized during the year, having the opportunity to compete all year, and be protagonists, as we asked them all the time. Obviously, at this moment, there is a lot of pain and there is a lot of frustration that we have been carrying in the last 10 days, probably with things that happened and we could not, apparently, flush them off.
“We’re proud of them. I’m backing them up all the time because I know how hard they worked for this objective and now we need to grow. Certainly, this will help us for sure.”
The Revs had not won three consecutive matches since July 2019. The last win in that spell was a 4-1 triumph over Orlando City where Gustavo Bou scored early, Carles Gil got on the scoresheet and goalie Matt Turner had a stellar performance.
The recipe worked once again on Sunday afternoon.
Gil scored in the 17th minute. Bou made it 2-0 in the 25th. For the first time all season Orlando City faced a two-goal deficit.
A New England squad that scored 26 goals in 23 regular season matches had once again scored twice in the first half of a MLS Cup Playoff match.
The Lions were not forced to stare into the abyss for long. Midfielder Junior Urso scored his first goal for the club in the 31st.
Orlando took more shots and maintained 61.2 percent of the possession. But, when New England had chances, the Revolution took them.
New England head coach Bruce Arena has taken teams to the MLS Cup Playoffs in 15 different seasons. The five-time MLS champion has never had a team throw away a two-goal lead in 52 previous playoff matches.
It also helped that the visitors played the final 30 minutes with a numerical advantage. Orlando midfielder Mauricio Pereyra was red carded after a reckless challenge in the 60th minute.
Orlando’s best chance to equalize arrived in the 76th minute. Captain and tailisman Nani took a penalty kick that was comfortably saved by Turner.
“It was pretty much just me versus [Nani],” Turner told the club’s website afterward. “It wasn’t about anybody else in the stands, I didn’t hear anything else. It was just focus on the ball, focus on the moment, trust the homework that you did, trust your technique to dive, trust all that, and if you did all your preparation correctly you should be in a position to make the save. So that was what was going through my head.
“On this particular one, [I] sort of did the homework. [Nani’s] taken a lot of penalty kicks this year so it’s all statistics and stuff like that. I picked my side early, went as hard as I could that way, made sure I kept my foot on the line, and made the save so it felt really nice.”
Bou finished off the scoring in the 86th with his third goal in three MLS Cup Playoff matches this season.
Bou’s backbreaker ended an Orlando season where the Lions tied for the MLS low with four losses, advanced to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time, beat Atlanta United for the first time and advanced to the MLS is Back final.