The ball bounced Orlando City’s way during a Round of 16 match against New England Revolution, with the Lions earning a 2-1 extra time victory Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium.
Benji Michel was in the right place at the right time as he cleaned up a rebound from Carlos Ascues, giving Orlando City a 1-0 lead in the 96th minute.
Joao Moutinho sent a cross in and the ball deflected off Michel back to Ascues, who fired and forced Matt Turner to make a diving save. Benji cleaned up the rebound with the goal.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Benji said after the game. “I’ve been dreaming about this ever since I was younger, watching the club and just thinking about me scoring in front of these fans. Today, I finally achieved that.”
In the 101st minute, Tesho Akindele shot a slow roller off a deflection, sending Turner the wrong direction. As Turner went one way, the ball went the other and found the back of the net to put Orlando City up 2-0.
New England pulled back one goal late in the 117th minute, but the Revolution could not find an equalizer.
“Obviously very pleased to get through [to the quarterfinals],” head coach James O’Connor said. “I thought it was a very tough game, as we knew it would be. Credit to New England. I thought they put up a great fight and I thought it was a very difficult game for both teams. Back and forth. But I thought the heart and the commitment that the players showed was outstanding.”
With the win, the Lions (5-7-3) advance to the next round and will host New York FC in a quarterfinal Open Cup match for the first time in Orlando City history. New York defeated D.C. United 2-1 in the other Round of 16 match.
New England (4-8-4) had numerous opportunities in normal time leading 14-7 in shots taken, but the Revolution couldn’t take advantage and the score remained knotted at zero.
“Both teams did a good job of cancelling each other out,” O’Connor said. “We had a couple of opportunities where maybe we just needed to make a better decision. But as the game went on, I thought we started to dominate the ball more.”
Orlando City did suffer a blow during the match. Cristian Higuita went down in the 42nd minute with an apparent leg injury. Higuita was able to walk off the pitch under his own power. According to the club, Higuita suffered a hamstring injury, although the severity was not known.
“It’s still too early to be able to tell as to how serious,” O’Connor said. “There’s multiple players that have got knocks and hopefully it’s just fatigue. Crisitan’s looks a little more serious, so we just have to wait and see the next couple of days.”
New England threatened to score in the second half, with Teal Bunbury sending a shot into a dangerous area and forcing Adam Grinwis to make a kick save. Minutes later, Bunbury drilled a shot into the left post in the 78th minute and shot the ball wide on a second chance.
“Credit to our back line,” Grinwis. “We weathered the storm well. They [New England] were just putting balls in us left and right. And it was tricky on the pitch, obviously a fast pitch.”
Like Bunbury, Akindele fired the ball into the right post in the 85th minute, Orlando City’s best opportunity up to that point. Michel was caught offside on the put-back attempt. Two minutes later, Dillion Powers had a shot of his own, but Turner stretched out for the save.
Neither side had anything going in the first half offensively. The Lions only had two shots, while New England had seven.
This is the third time in the club’s history Orlando City has reached the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Last season, the Lions suffered a 1-0 loss to eventual Cup champion Philadelphia Union.
“I think we showed a lot of character in this game,” Grinwis said. “Everybody got to see what our group is about. The togetherness of this group is special and I think it showed today.”