Orlando City looked as though it was about to have a tough time ousting a USL team in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
That is, until Sacha Kljestan stepped up.
Kljestan made a run toward Memphis 901 FC’s penalty box. Cristian Higuita looked to his left and passed the ball to the Orlando City midfielder.
Kljestan was able to sneak his shot past Memphis goalkeeper Scott Levene, scoring his second goal of the game.
Kljestan’s brace was enough as Orlando City defeated Memphis 3-1 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday in Memphis. It was the second consecutive win for the Lions, who will have a long break until their next MLS match.
Kljestan’s second goal came five minutes after Memphis tied the game at 1. The midfielder’s finish restored the Lions’ lead.
“It was really important to kill any momentum [Memphis was] trying to build,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said. “They got a goal and they made it 1-1, so I thought the timing of the goal was really good. I thought the work ethic of pretty much everyone was outstanding.”
Orlando City dominated possession throughout the contest but found it tough breaking down Memphis’ defense. Memphis was content on getting as many defenders behind the ball when the Lions were on the attack.
In the waning minutes of the first half though, the Lions found a breakthrough. Defender Shane O’Neill found himself isolated against Memphis’ Abdi Mohamed and was taken down in the penalty box.
Kljestan stepped up to the penalty spot and opened the scoring in the 38th minute.
“I think [Memphis] deserves enormous credit for the way they defended,” O’Connor said. “They made it very difficult for us to try and break them down and I thought they did a really good job with that. I thought [our] players showed tremendous composure.”
In the 44th minute, Lions goalkeeper Adam Grinwis — playing in his first match of the season — came up with a save on a deflected shot. Grinwis dove to his right to get his hand on the shot, preserving Orlando City’s lead.
Memphis’ Elliot Collier scored a header off a corner early in the second half to tie the game at 1, but the USL squad could not keep up once Orlando City pulled back ahead.
Robin Jansson added Orlando City’s third goal of the game in the 71st minute, capping off the performance.
“We’re going to try and continue with the momentum,” O’Connor said. “We need to get back and get some good training into us. We need to get some of the guys back and get them fit. Obviously, we got multiple guys away on international duty, so we can’t do much about that.”