(Photo credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports)
Orlando City clinched a spot in the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs on Wednesday despite falling 2-0 to host New York City FC.
Goals from Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno proved the difference for New York (7-10-13, 34 points), as the home side looked the stronger team throughout the night. Orlando City (14-7-8, 50 points) saw their five-game unbeaten run in all competitions end.
Threatening from the early moments, NYCFC nearly found their breakthrough four minutes into the match. Richard Ledezma sent in a cross to Andres Perea at the back post, only for Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to make a sprawling, one-handed save to force a corner kick.
Bakrar opened the scoring for New York in the 37th minute, heading in a penalty kick rebound after Gallese pushed aside Rodiguez's spot attempt, following a brief VAR review on a tackle from Orlando's Ramiro Enrique.
NYCFC extended their lead in the 68th minute as Andres Jasson sent a cross to Magno, who soared over Rodrigo Schlegel to head the ball past Gallese and double the lead.
Ahead of their second goal, NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing was forced to make a change, as Ledezma was taken off on a stretcher due to a tackle on the ankle from Orlando's Cesar Araujo.
Despite maintaining possession through the later portions of the match, Orlando struggled to string attacks together, finishing the night with just two shots on target and 59.5 possession. In comparison, New York finished with seven shots on target and 40.5 possession.
While Orlando failed to claim any points, DC United's 1-1 draw against Atlanta United allowed the Lions to clinch a postseason berth with five matches remaining in their regular-season schedule.
Meanwhile, the victory vaulted NYCFC further into playoff contention, bringing them within two points of D.C. United, the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference and current holder of the final playoff spot.
New York's Matt Freese made two saves in his clean-sheet victory.
--Field Level Media