I have never attended a game like this with so many emotions in one night. Orlando City, after playing most of the match down a man, defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders 3-2 on penalty kicks after the match ended 2-2 in regulation and extra time on Saturday. Sean Kelley, the back up goalkeeper after starter and captain Miguel Gallardo was sent off, was named the game’s MVP for his performance during the penalty shootout and he definitely deserved it after an intense match.
The final fifteen minutes of overtime will go down as one of the most exciting in Orlando’s young history, maybe even in USL PRO’s history, but first lets go back to the 48th minute when the drama began.
The Lions dominated possession in the first half, but could not find the final ball needed to go ahead. City also struggled with staying onside, causing the flag to raise seven times in the opening half. Some of those offside calls were very questionable to me. The second half looked to be more of the same, but then tragedy struck for the Lions.
In the 48th minute Gallardo got caught in an awkward situation with Harrisburg forward Sainey Tourray. Harrisburg’s David Schofield found a streaking Tourray down the middle of the pitch. Gallardo had no choice but to take out Tourray since he was the only person left between Tourray and the goal, giving him the instant red card and send off.
With the league’s best goalie out of the match, Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath put in backup goalkeeper Sean Kelley for the first time this postseason. Kelley was impressive in goal, with Orlando’s defense not missing a beat.
Orlando City struggled to find an open man throughout the match. It took all but the last minute for the Lions to strike. Lewis Neal found a streaking Lawrence Olum in the 89th minute, leading him perfectly in stride. Olum smoothly put the ball past Chase Harrison, putting Orlando up. For a minute, it seemed like Orlando would cruise to its first USL PRO Championship. Turns out it would not be that easy.
The players celebrated for about two minutes before the game could start back up. In the end their long celebration would cost them. The referee awarded five minutes of extra time and knowing they only had five minutes to save their season, Harrisburg threw everything they had. They were awarded a series of corners in the last minute of the game and even their keeper, Harrison, was over there trying to get that goal.
Harrisburg, with the man advantage, finally scored with seconds left to tie the game. Harrisburg forward J.T. Noone scored the tying goal, off of a corner that weaved its way through Orlando’s defense. The tie meant the championship match would be settled in extra time.
Harrisburg did not wait long, with Sainey Touray scoring a goal in the 95th minute off of a Jason Pelleter corner. The goal put the Islanders up 2-1 going into the second and final fifteen minutes of the match.
Down 2-1, Orlando’s offense played the best it had all night. Devorn Jorsling was brought down in the box and we what we believed would have been penalty turned into a free kick for the Harrisburg keeper. This infuriated the crowd. It was one of the many calls that should have been given towards our team. The angry fans started throwing water bottles and beer cans onto the field. As soon as the crowd stopped throwing the debris, the game restarted.
Not long after that, Harrisburg’s Jeritt Thayer took down Dennis Chin inside the box. Neal attempted the ensuing penalty kick, with all 11,220 fans silent before the shot was taken. Neal rocketed in a shot past Harrison, and the Citrus Bowl in erupted in applause, chants and cheers with the game now tied at two. Orlando held off Harrisburg long enough for the Lions to extend the game to penalty kicks.
Harrisburg’s Nelson Berrera was up first, shooting low and right which made for an easy save by Kelley. The fans erupted. Neal took Orlando’s first shot, putting it in the back left of the net to put Orlando up 1-0 in PKs. Next up for Harrisburg was Jose Angulo who attempted almost the same shot Berrera did a minute beforehand. Kelley was again saved it and kept Harrisburg without a goal. Yordany Alvarez, the league’s MVP, scored on his penalty to put Orlando up 2-0. But of course, the drama had to continue.
J. T. Noone and Stephen Basso converted attempts three and four for Harrisburg, while Charlie Campbell and Luke Boden both missed high for Orlando, leaving the score tied at 2-2 with one player left for each team.
Sainey Touray was the last shooter for Harrisburg, who took an extra couple of seconds to line up his shot. Touray struck the ball wide left of the goal by just a couple of feet, leaving Devorn Jorsling with a chance to send the Orlando supporters home happy.
The Trinidadian international calmly walked up to the penalty area. Jorsling took a few seconds, lined up his shot, and took three steps before rocketing in a shot in the back left corner of the net-capturing the win for Orlando City. Fans, Players, and Staff went crazy as soon as the ball hit the back of the net. Orlando City are USL PRO Champions.
As I pulled away from the Stadium I couldn’t help but feel sad. If you follow my personal account on twitter you know that I am obsessed with this sport so leaving the Citrus Bowl on Saturday meant not coming back for a couple months.
I just wanted to say Thank You to the Orlando City Owners, players and staff for bringing this sport to Central Florida. I was part of the 7K fans that attended the first home match of the season back in April and became an instant fan. They also provided me with the opportunity to watch not one but two English Premier League teams here in Orlando.
Thank you for an unforgettable season. I have truly enjoyed it and I truly believe that the best team won the Championship. Orlando City is the best team in this league with the best supporters. See you all next season! I can’t wait till we started defending our title!