Minnesota United

Nani double lifts Orlando City past Minnesota into MLS is Back final


Nani scored a pair of first-half goals and Orlando City advanced to the MLS is Back tournament final with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota United on Thursday night.

Orlando will play the Portland Timbers, who defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in the other semifinal on Wednesday night, in the championship game on Tuesday.

Mason Toye pulled Minnesota within 2-1 with his first goal of the season in the 83rd minute, but the Lions withstood United’s attack down the stretch before Benji Michel’s goal late in stoppage time for the final margin.

Minnesota’s Chase Gasper had an early attempted that was pushed over the goal by Pedro Gallese. On the other end, Tesho Akindele’s chance off a cross from Ruan just barely sailed over the crossbar.

Nani gave Orlando the lead in the 36th minute, taking a long ball from Robin Jansson and shaking off defender Hassani Dotson before beating Minnesota goalkeeper Tyler Miller. Some seven minutes later the Portuguese winger made it 2-0 with a goal from distance.

There was some shoving between the two teams in the 73rd minute when Junior Urso’s foul resulted in a Minnesota free kick. Gallese came up big for the Lions, leaping to stop Raheem Edwards’ attempt.

Minnesota coach Adrian Heath was coach of Orlando City for four seasons before the team joined Major League Soccer in 2015. Heath led the Lions until July 2016, when he was fired.

“It will always be more than just another game for me because of the respect I have from the supporters,” Heath said during a conference call previewing the match. “We built the club together. I always like coming back to the city. I still have a home here. Orlando is something special and dear to me.”

Heath had not lost against his former club. The Lions are now led by Oscar Pareja.

Minnesota’s Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino both had hamstring injuries and were on the bench to start the game. United centerback Ike Opara – the regining MLS defender of the year – did not join the team in Orlando because of a pre-existing condition.

Orlando’s Chris Mueller, whose arm in a sling after the team advanced on penalties following a scoreless draw against LAFC in the quarterfinals, was in the starting lineup.

Lions striker Dom Dwyer had surgery last week on his left knee as is expected to be out for up to six months.

The monthlong World Cup-style tournament has been played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. Players have been sequestered at a pair of Disney resorts.

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