Orlando City SC faced a foe from their past during the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup when the Tampa Bay Rowdies came to town.
City won 2-1 against the Rowdies to advance to the Round of 32 in a feisty affair at Exploria Stadium that included 32 fouls, eight yellow cards and a red card for Rowdies coach Neil Collins. The two teams were bitter rivals when they both played in USL Pro.
“I love to play derbys, and we were talking this week about this game,” Jr. Urso said. “Oscar told us ‘don’t play like it’s a friendly game because they will come to push us.’”
After a slow first half, City switched to a 3-5-2 which opened the game up. The scoring opened with an Alexandre Pato penalty conversion in the 51st minute.
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The play began when Pato received the ball on the edge of the box and hit it first time back to Mauricio Pereyra who then sent in a running Benji Michel who got past the defender and forced a bad tackle. A penalty was awarded which Pato converted calmly.
Orlando City’s lead doubled when Pato avoided multiple defenders on the outside of the box by chipping the ball over a lunging defender to Pereyra. With space a few yards outside of the box, Pereyra sent a cross into the box. Michel drew a defender, but the ball went over them both to a waiting Urso who slotted it in and celebrated by putting on a fan’s sunglasses.
Pato and Pereyra had a lethal attacking connection the whole second half after Pereyra was subbed in.
“Mauricio is a player who glues us together,” Pareja said. “Not just because of his ability on the ball, but he’s in a very strategic position where the ball gets to him and he just connects us.”
After Orlando doubled the lead, Tampa Bay caught Orlando City sleeping, sending a long ball shortly after play restarted to the outside. The ball was sent into the box to Sebastian Guenzatti. The ball was awkwardly deflected, leaving City keeper Mason Stajduhar out of position. Lucky Mkosana was able to slot the deflection into the back of the net in the 65th minute.
Thomas Williams, the 17-year-old academy product, earned his first start for Orlando City and was a solid defender the whole game. He was under pressure in dangerous spots a few times but stayed composed and kept possession for his team.
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“I think I just tried to keep my composure as much as possible,” Williams said. “If I didn’t see any good passes I just went long with it and just tried to make the best decision.”
Rowdies coach Collins was issued a yellow card at halftime for dissent and received a straight red card in the 90th minute. The Rowdies had earned a free kick, but Orlando City kicked the ball toward the bench, some cheeky time wasting. Collins ran onto the field to kick the ball back to his team, which resulted in his red card.
Orlando City advances to the Fourth Round where they will host the Philadelphia Union on May 10.