Every once in a while when watching sports, we are reminded why we love them so much. I had one of these moments this weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, a Major League Soccer playoff game between Orlando City SC and New York City FC went into a penalty shootout. Going into the last of the initial five rounds of kicks, Orlando only needed to score or have New York miss and it would advance.
Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese saved Valentin Castellanos’ penalty, and the Lions believed they were moving on. Orlando coach Oscar Pareja had even run into the locker room to tell defender Ruan, who had received a red card earlier in the game, that they had won.
However, a video review showed that Gallese had left the goal line early, meaning the penalty had to be retaken. In addition, Gallese received a yellow card, his second of the game, meaning that he was sent off as well. Pareja tried to substitute backup goalie Brian Rowe into the game for the rest of the shootout.
Unfortunately for Orlando, the rules state that teams are not allowed to make substitutions once a penalty shootout has begun. After a lengthy delay, defender Rodrigo Schlegel took the gloves for the Lions. As Castellanos retook his penalty to keep New York alive, Schlegel looked exactly as you would expect an outfield player in goal to look.
He never dived. Schlegel simply jumped to one side, hoping that Castellanos would hit his shot right at him. He did not, and New York survived. However, Orlando’s best player, former Manchester United winger Luis Nani, was lining up for the winning penalty.
Nani’s penalty was saved, and once again, Schlegel was forced to go in goal for the Lions. He shuffled his feet on the line as Gudmundur Thorarinsson made his run up for New York.
Then the unthinkable happened. Rodrigo Schlegel, a defender playing in goal in a penalty shootout in a playoff game, leapt to his left, and the ball careened off his wrist. A look of pure jubilation spread across his face as he wheeled away from the goal in celebration.
His teammates surrounded him, but this game had one more twist. Orlando had seemingly forgotten that they still needed to score their next penalty to advance. Forward Benji Michel buried his shot, and the Lions once again surrounded Schlegel. He was the newest club legend.
After more than 20 minutes, the most dramatic, intense and downright insane penalty shootout that I have ever seen came to an end.
This was Orlando’s first ever playoff game, and it won because a defender saved a penalty in a shootout after its goalie had been sent off. It was a moment that I will never forget. It was so bizarre, unexpected and incredible.
We watch sports for the human story and to see people rise up beyond what we thought was possible. We watch for the unlikely heroes and the unfortunate scapegoats. We watch because every time we tune into a game, we could see a moment like what happened Saturday, and that is an amazing opportunity.
The bottom line is that sports in their purest form are an escape from the issues of the world. On Saturday, we were able to escape thanks to Rodrigo Schlegel.
Will Cunningham is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Will? Tweet him @willocunningham.