Goalkeeper Rodrigo Schlegel
Lions defender Rodrigo Schlegel became an instant Club legend on Saturday afternoon, denying NYCFC’s Gudmundur Thórainsson from the penalty spot in the seventh round of a shootout between the two sides to help City to its first playoff victory in its MLS tenure. Schlegel stepped in between the sticks after goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was sent off with his second yellow card of the day, his only prior goalkeeping experience coming at the Racing Club Academy in his native Argentina in his youth career.
City captain Luis Nani scored his ninth goal across all competitions for the Lions on Saturday against NYCFC and the first playoff goal in Club history, converting from the penalty spot in the fifth minute to give the home side the early lead. The finish marked the third for the Lions’ captain in a single-elimination match this season, after recording a brace in the Semifinals of the MLS is Back Tournament against Minnesota United. Nani trails only Chris Mueller on the side in finishes across all contests this season.
Last Time Against the Revs
In New England’s last visit to downtown Orlando, the two sides battled to a 3-3 draw at Exploria Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019. Lions captain Luis Nani had his hand in all three goals for the home side on the evening, scoring a brace in the match while also recording the assist on Dom Dwyer’s finish in the 47th minute to help the Lions overcome a two-goal deficit to earn a point. Midfielder Mauricio Pereyra also registered an assist in that match in what served as his first goal contribution as a Lion.
Forward Benji Michel came up big for the Lions once more on Saturday afternoon, sending his penalty kick into the left side netting to send City through to Sunday’s Eastern Conference Semifinal. Just over two weeks prior, Michel scored the game-winner for the Lions against the Columbus Crew to clinch the very home playoff match he won for his hometown side. At just 23 years-old, Michel has scored 12 goals across all competitions since joining the Lions ahead of the 2019 season, his first professional goal coming against New England in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup a year ago.
Sunday’s match will see two Lions square off against their former college teammates in forward Daryl Dike and defender Kamal Miller. Dike, a product out of the University of Virginia, will square off against fellow Cavalier Henry Kessler, who was drafted with the next pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft by New England at sixth-overall while Dike was taken fifth by the Lions. Miller, a Syracuse University product, will take on his former teammate in Tajon Buchanan, who scored one of the Revs’ two goals against Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Another Historic Moment
Sunday will mark the Lions second match of their historic first playoff run, as well as the second-consecutive they will host at Exploria Stadium. Following a sold out, at-capacity crowd last Saturday against New York City FC, the same atmosphere is to be expected for Sunday’s match, as the Club announced it had sold out its allotment of tickets within hours of going on sale Wednesday morning. The Lions hold a 7-1-3 record at Exploria Stadium this season across all competitions, with a goal differential of +12 through 11 contests.