Orlando City SC will try to continue its first-ever MLS Cup Playoff run as the club hosts the New England Revolution in the first of two Eastern Conference semifinal matchups on Sunday.
Neither team entered the unusual 2020 campaign as a favorite to make much noise in the MLS playoffs. Now, these two long shots will face off in a nationally televised matchup. Orlando City enters as the +130 pick to win the game in regulation over New England (+200), according to PointsBet.
Orlando City Refocused After Emotional Win
New England defeated the Montreal Impact in a play-in game, then upset the top-seeded Philadelphia Union 2-0 to reach the semis.
Orlando City survived a penalty shootout against New York City FC in the first round following a 1-1 draw in its quarterfinal matchup. That thriller left the Lions pumped up after their win, though head coach Oscar Pareja says his team settled down once they knew they’d be playing the Revolution in the next round.
“It was a very emotional game indeed,” Pareja told the Orlando Sentinel. “But we settled. We already put this one behind. We focused during the five days of preparation that we had on New England.”
The victory culminated in a wild scene in which Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese drew a second yellow card for coming off his line during the shootout. That forced defender Rodrigo Schlegel into emergency duty, where he made a save to secure victory for the Lions.
|MLS Cup Playoffs Odds (via PointsBet)|
|Orlando City: +125||Draw: +250||New England Revolution: +205|
|Columbus Crew: +135||Draw: +235||Nashville SC: +200|
Gallese will miss Sunday’s game because of the dismissal. New England goalkeeper Matt Turner said he has sympathy for Gallese, even though what happened might help his team.
“I was watching that game in my apartment and I just couldn’t believe what was going on,” Turner told the MLS ExtraTime podcast. “I really feel for him. I feel like guys have come off their line a lot more than that and not gotten repercussions. But the refs made the call, it’s a yellow card, you can’t reverse it. That’s that. We’ll take that as an advantage going into Sunday because he’s been good for them all season.”
Columbus Faces COVID-19 Crisis During MLS Playoffs
Later on Sunday, the Columbus Crew will host Nashville SC in the other MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinal. Columbus enters as the +135 favorite over Nashville (+205). The Crew announced Wednesday that four players tested positive for COVID-19, making this a difficult week of preparation for the top remaining seed in the East.
“It’s been challenging. We’ve had to adapt,” Columbus manager Caleb Porter told reporters. “Our guys have been unbelievable, they’ve been like they have all year, resilient.”
Columbus won the only regular-season meeting between these two teams, beating Nashville 2-0 back in September. Crew head coach Gary Smith says his team has evolved since that time and is riding a wave of confidence after a 1-0 extra-time victory over Toronto FC on Tuesday.
“I think we’re a better team. I think we’re a more confident team,” Smith told reporters. “We certainly won’t go there with any fear after Tuesday’s result. I’m not sure we would have done anyway, but we certainly won’t after Tuesday’s result.”