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Leagues Cup

In a feisty encounter filled with plenty of chances for both sides, Colombian winger Juan Ferney Otero’s goal separated the two sides as Santos Laguna claimed a place in the semifi-nals of Leagues Cup, beating Orlando City, 0-1.

Thursday evening saw the last of the four Leagues Cup quarterfinals, with Orlando City SC hosting Santos Laguna at Exploria Stadium.

The hosts had been in decent form in MLS, losing just once in their last six matches in the league, a run which had seen them rise into second place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of fellow Leagues Cup side New York City FC. Santos, for their part, are unbeat-en in Liga MX, with a win and two draws over their first three matches ahead of a massive clash with Chivas this Sunday, and were looking to join Pumas and Club León in the semifinals.

Orlando nearly had the opener within the first minute as a poor clearance saw Christopher Meuller nearly find the back of the net, but the visitors blocked his shot off the line (1’). Nani was soon involved as well, hitting a good effort just over the bar moments later (3’). Santos re-sponded well, though, with a shot by Juan Ferney Otero. Nani had the bit between his teeth, though, cutting inside and hitting another shot just over the bar moments later (10’).

The match was full of intensity, and Santos nearly took the lead through Ronaldo Prieto, but he dragged his effort on the counter just wide (20’). Orlando would respond, though as Joao Moutinho stood up a pass to the back post, but Ruan’s header was over the bar as the game’s breathless pace continued. Just a moment later, Santos would find the opener through Otero as the Colombian’s shot took an awkward bounce to beat Mason Stajduhar (30’).

Despite going behind, Orlando showed plenty of fight, and Tesho Akindele’s shot came off the top of the crossbar after a lovely cross from Luan (33’). Neither side would come close to scor-ing again in the half, and the teams headed back to the locker room with the Liga MX side ahead, 1-0.

In the second half, Orlando had the first chance, as Mauricio Peryeyra’s effort from distance was deflected behind for a corner (48’). Growing in confidence, Óscar Pareja made a pair of attacking changes just before the hour, bringing on Benji Michel and Silvester van der Water. However, Santos continued to look the sharper of the two sides, having more opportunities despite Orlando City controlling possession, even as Nani had a powerful shot kept out by Lajud (64’)

Santos would sit deeper, looking to preserve their lead, as the end of the match approached. Well-organized, the Liga MX side would hold on to their clean sheet, despite Orlando continu-ing to press for an equalizer. It wasn’t to be in the end, though, as GEICO Man of the Match winner Otero’s goal would separate the two sides at full time.

The third Liga MX side to progress, Santos next head to the Pacific Northwest to face the Se-attle Sounders on Wednesday, September 14th in the first semifinal. In an all-Liga MX semifi-nal, Club León and Pumas will face off the following day, Wednesday, September 15, also in search of a coveted spot in the Leagues Cup Final in Las Vegas.

*Photo by USA TODAY*

Match details:

Orlando City SC 0-0 Santos Laguna

Halftime: 0-1

Goals: Orlando City SC: Santos Laguna: Juan Ferney Otero (30’)

Bookings: Orlando City SC: Nani (15’) Tesho Akindele (50’), Junior Urso (85’) Santos Laguna: none

Dismissals: Junior Urso (90 + 4’)

Orlando City SC: Stajduhar; Ruan (Smith 87’), Carlos, Jans-son, Moutinho (Mas 86’); Perea, Urso; Nani, Pereyra (Loera 87’), Mueller (van der Water 58’); Akindele (Michel 58’)

Substitutes: Grinwis, Halliday, Mas, van der Water, Smith, Dezart, Loera, Schlegel, Aguilera, Michel, Álvarado, Williams.

Manager: Óscar Pareja