BLACKBAUD– Orlando City’s SC U-23s became the first amateur team in Open Cup history to defeat the Charleston Battery at home, advancing Wednesday night via a Cup record 14-round shootout after 120 minutes of play ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Orlando U-23s opened the scoring in the 26th minute when a short clearance off a free kick fell to Jamaican forward Romario Williams near the penalty spot. Then they made it 2-0 in the final seconds of the half off midfielder Andrew Brody’s wonder-goal. Brody capped a sudden Orlando counter by chipping over Charleston’s back line and goalkeeper Eric Shannon from long range.
Charleston pulled level in the second half and spent much of the night on the brink of cracking Orlando’s defense, outshooting the visiting PDL squad 24-10. Forward Dane Kelly ended the frustration in the 63rd minute, finally putting away the rebound of his previous shot, which had caromed off the crossbar. Five minutes later he buried a penalty kick to equalize.
Yet despite their advantages, Charleston was unable to find a game winner in the final 27 minutes and went to Added Extra Time. When that ended with the 2-2 score unchanged, the match went to a shoot-out.
The Battery instantly earned the upper hand when Shannon, the Battery’s backup goalkeeper, saved the first Orlando shot from the mark. But the pro side’s third shooter in the first group of five — Vancouver Whitecaps midfielderAminu Abdallah — doinked his try off the crossbar to give Orlando new life.
In the third round of Sudden Death, Shannon came through again, stopping Orlando substitute defender Javier Clavijo. Charleston forward Heviel Cordoves stepped up to take the game-winner, but Orlando goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, a rising senior at Georgetown University, guessed right and earned the Junior Lions another opportunity.
It would take six more agonizing rounds and a miss by Charleston’s Kelly to separate the two sides. Dejected Battery players looked on in stunned silence as the PDL squad mobbed Gomez — who had not only revived them in the shootout, but whose five saves and fearless defending had helped them weather the Battery assault.
“Besides the National Championship (Georgetown’s 0-1 loss to Indiana), I haven’t had that much pressure on me,” Gomez said. “I knew when we went to penalties we were in a good spot. Our team converts. But that was the longest round of penalties I’ve ever been a part of.”
Orlando will now travel to Portland to take on the Timbers of MLS on May 28. Charleston must now travel down to Florida to face Orlando’s undefeated first team on Saturday
The loss cost Charleston a chance to host an MLS team in Cup play for the third time in three years.
“You give the guys credit,” said Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We made a lot of PKs, they made a lot of PKs. We had a chance twice to win it, but we weren’t able to get it done. You gotta commend their keeper for making the big save there.
“It’s a difficult situation. You hate to lose that way. We didn’t want to go to penalties, but they got it done.”
TOP IMAGE: Orlando U-23s goalkeeper Tomas Gomez came up huge for the Junior Lions Wednesday, making numerous solid defensive plays, recording five saves, converting his shot from the mark in the shootout, and stopping Charleston’s one chance to win the match in Sudden Death. Janet Edens Conover photos.