BOYDS, Md. — Orlando City SC interim coach Bobby Murphy led the Lions past D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on penalty kicks.
“I would lie if I said there weren’t some nerves coming intoit on my part,” Murphy said. “The players deserve a lot of credit. The people around me deserve a whole lot of credit for making sure we were ready to go.”
Murphy and his team faced 120 minutes of rain delay, 120 minutes of regulation, two extra-time halfs and penalty kicks during Orlando City’s victory. The teams played to a 1-1 draw before the Lions pushed ahead 4-2 in penalty kicks Wednesday at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
“There was a lot thrown at us tonight and I thought the guys handled it really well,” Murphy said. “We dug in and held firm.”
Appointed to right Orlando’s course, Murphy’s first order of business was to make sure the team did not concede another goal.
“We had to stop the bleeding in terms of giving up goals,”Murphy said. “That was the primary thing.”
The solution to the leaking defense was to shift formationand the use all three international center backs on the Orlando roster. Jonathan Spector, Lamine Sané and Amro Tarek made up the back line while the rest of the lineup fell into a makeshift 3-5-2 formation. Orlando trained just two days in this three back formation.
“I have three international center backs, so I went withthree international center backs and then just built them from there,” Murphy said, “I cannot remember one time this year when we had our ideal eleven healthy and on the field together. I think we are getting close to there.
The new formation included typical starters like Spector, Sacha Kljestan, Stefano Pinho and Justin Meram.
“I spoke with each of the guys individually,” Murphy said. “They all wanted to play in this game and they all thought it was important.”
Despite having another game in three days, the typical starters asked to play against United.
“Any time a new coach comes in, everybody just has a little bit more sense of urgency and maybe a little bit more energy,” Kljestan said. “I want to be on the field all the time. I don’t like taking games off.”
Orlando wasn’t able to hold United scoreless, and conceded a goal in just the sixth minute of play.
With the game resuming at the 5:10 mark after the weather delay, United went on the attack and streaked down the left side of the pitch. Forward Darren Mattocks exposed Orlando’s newly-minted back three while midfielder Luciano Acosta volleyed the ball in for the opening goal.
Meram, Pinho and Chris Mueller added to a quick counter attack for Orlando, supported by Kljestan in the midfield. This allowed Orlando to quickly respond on a wild play up the middle. Kljestan tapped a quick short pass to Meram, who hit the ball with just enough power to slip through the open arms and legs of United goalkeeper Steve Clark.
That was the last goal for almost an hour and a half.
“It wasn’t as pretty as we would like to have played,” Orlando keeper Earl Edwards said. “Having three center backs of that caliber to hold things down in front of me and get the result was big time for us.”
Heading to overtime in a 1-1 stalemate, both teams ran on fumes. United defender Chris Durkin received his second yellow of the game in extra time, dropping United down to 10 men.
Orlando advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup after one round of penalties, but at a hefty cost. Players like Kljestan, Spector and Meram played well past the 90-minute mark. The Lions’ next league match is just three days away on Saturday at home against the Montreal Impact.
“It certainly won’t be easy to get home tomorrow afternoon, then have a short training on Friday and be ready to play Saturday,” Kljestan said Wednesday night. “But we also know our backs are against the wall. If there is a time that we really need to dig deep and grind out a result, that would be on Saturday. [It is] a big opportunity for us.”