Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja will not soon forget his side’s “insane” penalty shootout win over New York City on Saturday.
One of the most remarkable endings to an MLS playoff match saw Orlando triumph 6-5 after Rodrigo Schlegel, the substitute defender, stepped up as emergency goalkeeper and saved from Gudmundur Thorarinsson.
Schlegel volunteered to go in goal after Pedro Gallese had been sent off for a second yellow card for encroachment during the spot-kicks, which lasted for more than 21 and a half minutes.
Gallese, who kept 10-man Orlando in the contest as the match finished 1-1 after extra time, was sent off having already celebrated what he thought was a decisive save from Taty Castellanos.
With Pareja unable to introduce replacement keeper Brian Rowe, Schlegel donned the gloves and kept out Thorarinsson’s effort, allowing Benji Michel to seal a sudden-death victory and give Orlando their first ever playoff win.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 21, 2020
“I think we’ll need more time to calm down and reflect on what happened,” Pareja told reporters. “The analysis of the game, it may wait for tomorrow [Sunday] when we can analyse the soccer side.
“What just happened at the end, I never saw it before. And this is the beauty of this game, that we’re humans and full of emotions and mistakes and good things and all of that. But today the ball [was] bouncing our way.
“After what just happened I can laugh, but believe me, this is insane tonight.”
Pareja described Orlando as “10 men on the field multiplying themselves for this team, that made me very proud” after Ruan’s reckless challenge in the 87th minute handed New York the initiative.
“The boys showed the heart of this franchise. They showed with all that intensity, sacrifice after we lost Ruan,” he said.
“Obviously we need to make many corrections and many things that happened in that last part, but we are proud to represent this community. We are proud to win and beat one of the best teams in Major League Soccer.
“We will prepare [for] the next game, because this doesn’t stop, but what happened today, that will keep in my memory forever.”
— OptaJack (@OptaJack) November 21, 2020
Amid the chaos of the penalties, Pareja will always remember four simple words from Schlegel that changed Orlando’s fate: “Papi, I can do that.”
“Rodri told [Gallese], ‘I was a goalkeeper when I was in the academy.’ So, we just gave him the gloves and prayed,” Pareja said. “That was very chaotic, for sure.”
Schlegel, who was making only his 11th appearance for the Lions since joining on loan from Racing Club, recalled: “I wasn’t really able to think about too much.
“When I was able to make the stop, I thought that we had won and it was a lot of happiness, but then we had to wait for Benji to take his kick, and then just a bunch of happiness and thinking what luck we had.”
An unforgettable ending to the game means Orlando, who reached the final of the MLS is Back Tournament in August, are into a first Eastern Conference semi-final against either Philadelphia Union or New England Revolution.
“It means a lot, being in the playoffs, and just sending a message to the community that we’re not just content with just bringing them to the playoffs, that the players want more,” Pareja added.
“They know that the responsibility is on our shoulders to bring joy, and to make this team protagonist of Major League Soccer. With all these circumstances, what happened, it magnifies what they’ve done, what they did today.
“It has been a long journey, this year, with all that happened, with the pandemic, with people being in their houses and not being able to come to the stadium, people suffering and many others losing their loved ones. And we have such emotions in our body, in our minds that we want to get out, and today the game gave us that opportunity, to bring all those emotions.”
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