CF Montreal outlasts Orlando City to advance to East semifinals

Ismael Kone scored his first career MLS Cup Playoff goal midway through the second half to help lift CF Montreal to a 2-0 Eastern Conference first-round victory over visiting Orlando City SC on Sunday night.

Djordje Mihailovic converted a penalty kick deep into second-half stoppage time to seal Montreal's first home playoff victory since 2016. That was also the last time Montreal advanced to the next round of the postseason, when the competition featured two-game Eastern Conference semifinals and finals series.

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James Pantemis notched his first career playoff shutout despite not making a single save for second-seeded Montreal (20-9-5, 65 points), which will host the winner of Monday's first-round match between No. 3 New York City FC and No. 6 Inter Miami CF next Sunday.

Ercan Kara and Ivan Angulo had the best scoring chances for No. 7 seed Orlando (14-14-6, 48 points), which came from behind to defeat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on the final day of the regular season to reach the playoffs.

Orlando has reached the playoffs in all three seasons under head coach Oscar Pareja, but is now 0-3-1 in four postseason games, advancing only once on penalties after a first-round draw against NYCFC in 2020.

Montreal players celebrate after scoring a goal against Orlando in the MLS playoffs.
Montreal players celebrate after scoring a goal against Orlando in the MLS playoffs.
USA Today Images

After a lackluster first-half, Montreal asserted more control in the second and found their breakthrough in the 68th minute.

Kei Kamara received a pass near the top of the penalty area with his back to goal and played a first-time ball back into Mihailovic's path.

Mihailovic sent another first-touch pass to his left to find Kone running into the box. Kone deftly controlled the ball with his first touch to create space for his low, left-footed shot through goalkeeper Pedro Gallese's legs.

The visitors had the better chances of the first half but couldn't capitalize.

Kara had arguably the best, firing his attempt high from the left side of the penalty area after racing onto Mauricio Pereyra's through ball into space.

Angulo missed from a similar position 10 minutes later on another service from Pereyra, this time a cross from the right flank.