Valiant 'City' effort falls short against MLS squad

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KANSAS CITY, Fla. - Orlando City Soccer Club fought valiantly to the end, but were knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by Sporting Kansas City 3-2 in controversial fashion.  Orlando City played the  final 20 minutes of the match down a man, but still managed to push the MLS side to the brink until the end.

The controversy came from the lack of red cards shown to Sporting Kansas City.  Defender Aurelien Collin pulled Jamie Watson down from behind, just outside the 18-yard box, and was only shown a caution.  Later in the second half, Collin struck Watson with an extended elbow, only to be whistled for a standard foul.  

Minutes later, Orlando City’s Anthony Pulis was sent off for an elbow that occurred off camera.  Despite the controversy, Orlando City remained the aggressors for much of the match, showing very little difference in quality between one of Major League Soccer’s best clubs.

Orlando City controlled much of the first half, creating several chances on the well-timed runs of Dennis Chin.  City’s best chance came in the 40th minute when Chin cut back inside the 18 to feed Jamie Watson for a one-timer.  Watson’s shot was saved by a diving Jon Kempin.  Chin also had several breakaways snuffed out by Kempin.  

In the end, City would rue the missed opportunities.  Just before the halftime whistle, Paulo Nagamura ripped a shot high from 30 yards out.  Miguel Gallardo dove, but the shot was well out of his reach, sending Sporting in with a stunning 1-0 at the break.  Gallardo finished with eight saves in an overall virtuoso performance.

The second half provided plenty of excitement from both sides.  Kevin Molino’s equalizer in the 55th minute sprung the match to life, and awakened a City side that was still in shock from Nagamura’s strike.  Unfortunately for City, Soony Saad would temper the excitement with two goals within three minutes and send the Lions reeling.  When Pulis was sent off, City looked to be heading home unhappy for sure.  Then came Dennis Chin.

In the 83rd minute, Ian Fuller found a streaking Chin in space.  Chin’s chip attempt was stopped easily, but it signaled that City was not ready to give up.  Less than a minute later, Chin made good on his wasted effort by rifling a shot into the upper 90 and giving City a chance.  The Lions continued to press, coming close, but never close enough in the end.

Orlando City returns to action on Saturday, June 2, as the Lions head to Wilmington to faceoff against the Hammerheads.  City and Wilmington have met once this season, with the Lions winning 4-1 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.  The match will be streamed live on USLNation.com.