The Columbus Crew aren’t your typical underdog story, but there are few who thought Orlando City would be bounced in the second round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
MLS action returned after the international break with an Eastern Conference semi-final upset in central Florida as the Crew blanked Orlando City 2-0 thanks to goals from Christian Ramirez and Cucho Hernandez in extra time.
Ramirez was brought on at the start of extra time and rewarded Wilfried Nancy with a goal in the 93rd minute, by sliding to the goal line to connect with a cross from one-time CanMNT-eligible midfielder Aidan Morris.
The match-winning goal will have been extra special for Ramirez who should have another prize to celebrate in the coming hours.
Ramirez told the MLS social media team as he was walking off the pitch that his pregnant wife was in labour.
Hernandez doubled the lead in the 118th minute when Orlando’s goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was out of position trying to join Orlando’s desperate attack. Hernandez seized the opportunity and scored from the centre circle, marking his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte made crucial saves in the 100th and 106th minutes, preserving the Crew’s lead.
Canadian Mo Farsi started and played all 90 minutes on Saturday, while CanMNT youngster Jacen Russell-Rowe – who saw the pitch Tuesday night at BMO Field in Canada’s 3-2 loss to Jamaica — was Nancy’s final substitution, coming on in the final minute of extra time for Hernandez.
Orlando were reduced to 10 men in the 77th minute when Rodrigo Schlegel received his second yellow card for pulling down Diego Rossi.
Despite being a man down, Orlando nearly equalized in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time. But, Martin Ojeda’s shot from the left side of the box narrowly missed the far post.
The win was Columbus’s first post-season victory on the road since 2002. Orlando had won six games in a row coming into Saturday night.
The match saw the Crew, the highest-scoring team in the MLS regular season with 67 goals, pitted against one of the toughest defences in the league. Orlando City had only conceded 39 goals. Orlando had previously won back-to-back 1-0 fixtures in a first-round best-of-three series against Jacob Shaffelburg and Lukas MacNaughton’s Nashville SC.
Orlando finished second in the East in the regular season, and you probably don’t need reminding beat Toronto FC in Michael Bradley’s final, and John Herdman’s first, game with TFC.
The Crew progress to the conference final on December 2, where they will play FC Cincinnati after FCC beat the Philadelphia Union late to seal an All-Ohio ‘Hell is Real’ Derby.