After an illustrious and successful playing career, Queensboro FC is David Villa's next frontier.

Villa finds himself at the forefront of Queens' first professional football club, albeit off the pitch, having called time on a career that spanned 20 years in January and culminated in World Cup, Euro 2008, Champions League and LaLiga glory.

Spain's all-time leading goalscorer is part of the ownership group of start-up franchise Queensboro FC, who are preparing to compete in the USL Championship (USLC) – the second tier of football in the United States.

But why Queensboro FC for the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid striker?

"During my four years in New York, I developed my project of the DV7 Academy and launched a school for children in Queens," the 39-year-old Villa, who played for MLS franchise New York City between 2014 and 2018 before leaving for Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe in Japan, told Stats Perform News.

"My son was training with them and I spent most of my free time watching their training sessions. Then I get in touch with the people in Queens and realised how passionate they are for football and how many talented boys and girls are starting their path to play the game. I talked with my partners and all of us agree that this borough deserved to have a local club, a team that provides everybody the opportunity to go to the stadium, all the families together and enjoy the sport that they like more.

"Also having a first step for the professionalism is something necessary for the development of the talented players that want to have a chance of success. This is our motivation."

"I started having this project in mind in 2016, but to start a team in New York City is a very difficult process that we are already working in," Villa continued. "It is not only football, there are a lot of ingredients that you need to be successful like building a stadium, finding facilities to train… Several things that are not part of my main expertise but I have got familiar during these past years.

"I honestly don't see myself as a professional coach, at least now, so I prefer to take this direction that allows me to create what I feel comfortable, obviously in the football universe, in the places that I like most."

Queensboro's introduction has been put on hold until 2022 amid the coronavirus pandemic, after they were originally scheduled to enter the USLC next year.

"We hope to build a competitive team, a team for the people of Queens, that unite all the diverse communities that lives in the borough. We want Queensboro FC to inspire all the children to practice sport and dream big and provide too a pathway to the professionalism," Villa said.

"Another thing that we learned during our years in New York is that the football market was underserved, in example for coaching education. We want to try our best to develop an ecosystem of football knowledge around the team that embrace all the people that want to get deeper in the football world."

"We want to be part of the identity of Queens, capture the essence of this borough, and this is something unique," Villa said. "Second, our main priority is being competitive but developing local players. This is not an easy way and for sure it would take time, but it is very exciting for us to prove that there are a lot of talented players that will emerge when they have the right platform to help them."

There is a Barcelona flavour in Queens, with former Blaugrana star Villa turning to countryman Josep Gombau as the club's first-ever head coach and sporting director.

From 2003 to 2009, Gombau was a youth-team coach at Barca before going on to coach in Hong Kong and Australia, where he also led the country's Under-23 team and served as an assistant for the Socceroos in 2016-17.

Gombau said: "It's a project that we have been working on for a long time. It was something we started discussing while I was in New York for the first time in 2015-16 when I left Adelaide [United in Australia]. I'm very excited.

"From the beginning, I'm involved and something that as a coach I like. Last season in India [Odisha FC] was my 25th anniversary of coaching non-stop. I coached youth teams, professional teams, great experience with the national team in Australia. When you think at the end of life, to have different experiences is something I like. To build a club from zero is something that is very strange, but to do it is amazing. We are building the youth team and the first-team squad, even choosing the colours of the jerseys. A lot of things that a person like myself that I love football and like to be involved in all these things, it's a big experience for us and great for me."

"Our goal is to make a club that works very well with young players, that hopefully will be promoted to the first team," Gombau said. "To have a first team with a lot of young players and help them achieve their dream to play in bigger leagues, like MLS or overseas. We want to play a kind of football that people enjoy, but we call our team a platform club that believe in youth."

Queensboro will start life in the USLC but do they have ambitions to play in MLS – which will expand to 27 teams next year – in the future?

"We're not thinking about MLS in the short term. We are just starting our journey and our mind is in the USL. We think we fit well in this league, it's a perfect starting point for us. We're not thinking of growing and go to MLS as an objective, or something that we will achieve in five, six years. This is not our challenge," added Gombau.

"We just want to go step by step. We think in this league, we will have more chance to promote more young players – it's well-structured this league. We don't think about changing to MLS in short time, maybe in a long time, but not now."

In the meantime, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works, but Gombau insisted: "As a new club, it was a big risk to start in 2021, thinking that at least the first six months of competition would be without fans. We think as a new club, we need to start with everything and our fans are our most valuable.

"The league gave us some good advice, telling us why not start with an U19 team in 2021? At least you will start your journey, see how everything works and this is what we're doing. We will have a team playing in the academy league, starting in March. We will work with these kids and I hope we can promote some of them to the first team in 2022.

"We are focused on players who are hungry and want to achieve something, more than players who are close to retirement. We are thinking of bringing good, young players who see us as a platform."

Columbus Crew clinched their second MLS Cup and first since 2008 with a 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

Lucas Zelarayan and Derrick Etienne scored during a dominant first half by the hosts at MAPFRE Stadium, where the former sealed the win in the 82nd minute.

Seattle – playing their fourth MLS Cup in five years – improved in the second half, but Crew were too good.

Columbus, in their first decider since 2015, became the seventh team in history to win the MLS Cup more than once.

Crew made the stronger start and Gyasi Zardes forced an excellent reaction save from Stefan Frei in the 17th minute.

Just eight minutes later and Crew went ahead, Zelarayan squeezing a volley under Frei after Harrison Afful's cross from the right.

Columbus doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark, Zelarayan picking up a poor clearance before laying off to Etienne, who placed a smart side-footed finish into the bottom corner.

Crew became the first team since DC United in 2004 to hold a multi-goal lead at half-time of the MLS Cup, according to Opta.

The Sounders pushed in the second half and Jordan Morris hit the crossbar in the 80th minute for the defending champions.

But Columbus sealed their win through the impressive Zelarayan, who powered a finish into the top corner after a fine run by Luis Diaz Espinoza.

Zelarayan became the second player to be involved in three goals in a single MLS Cup, joining Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who achieved it with Columbus in 2008.

Gustav Svensson scored a 93rd-minute winner as defending champions Seattle Sounders fought back to shock Minnesota United 3-2 and reach the MLS Cup final.

The Sounders emerged from the jaws of defeat in an all-time classic, having trailed Minnesota 2-1 approaching the 89th minute in the Western Conference final on Monday.

Raul Ruidiaz equalised in the final minute of regulation before substitute Svensson completed the epic comeback in the third minute of stoppage time in Seattle, where Minnesota had led 2-0 after 67 minutes.

The Sounders, who will meet Columbus Crew in their fourth final in five years, became the first team to come from two goals down to win a play-off match in 90 minutes since 2009, per Opta.

Minnesota looked on track to advance to their first final thanks to Emanuel Reynoso and Bakaye Dibassy.

Reynoso curled a free-kick past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the 29th minute – the Minnesota star's opener the club's first direct set-piece goal.

Dibassy doubled the lead with 23 minutes remaining as Reynoso turned provider to become the fourth player in MLS history to be involved in multiple goals in three consecutive play-off fixtures, following in the footsteps of Jozy Altidore, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Landon Donovan.

But Will Bruin came off the bench to trigger Seattle's comeback in the 75th minute after the Sounders forward scored within two minutes of his introduction.

Ruidiaz shocked Minnesota when he riffled a shot into the net at the death, before Svensson headed home the stoppage-time winner – there were four minutes, one second between the equaliser and winning goal.

Two different substitutes scored in the same match for the Sounders for the second time in Seattle's MLS history, after Obafemi Martins and Leo Gonzalez in 2015.

Columbus Crew reached the MLS Cup for the third time after a 1-0 win over New England Revolution on Sunday.

Artur's 59th-minute goal was enough for Columbus to win the Eastern Conference final at MAPFRE Stadium, moving into the MLS Cup for the first time since 2015.

It marked the first time Columbus have won an MLS Cup playoffs match over New England, and it came on their eighth attempt.

Crew had the better of the chances throughout and struck just before the hour mark, with Gyasi Zardes having been denied by New England goalkeeper Matt Turner just moments earlier.

Lucas Zelarayan's cross from the left found Jonathan Mensah at the back post and the defender touched a pass into the path of Artur, who found the bottom corner with a first-time finish.

All four of Artur's MLS goals have been scored at MAPFRE Stadium, including three in his past six home appearances.

Zelarayan smashed an effort against the post from 25 yards in the 62nd minute, but Artur's goal proved to be enough to crown Columbus Eastern Conference champions.

Columbus have won 13 of their past 14 home MLS matches and will host either Seattle Sounders or Minnesota United in the decider on December 12.

Crew boss Caleb Porter became the fifth coach in MLS history to win both the Eastern and Western Conference championships, joining Bruce Arena, Dominic Kinnear, Jason Kreis and Sigi Schmid.

Lionel Messi reportedly remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi, 33, is contracted at Barcelona until the end of the season, having stayed at the club after sensationally requesting to leave earlier this year.

With uncertainty still surrounding his future, the Barcelona star is apparently wanted by PSG.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EXPLORING POSSIBILITY OF SIGNING MESSI

PSG are exploring the possibility of signing Barcelona star Messi, according to ESPN.

Along with Manchester City and Inter, PSG have been among the clubs most heavily linked with a move for the Argentina international.

The report says Neymar and sporting director Leonardo have discussed bringing Messi to PSG.

It comes just days after Neymar said he wanted to play with Messi again and was keen for it to happen "next season".

 

ROUND-UP

- Still linked with Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Manchester United could look elsewhere. The Sun reports United are eyeing Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes as a possible alternative.

- Staying at Manchester United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been under some pressure. Bild reports the Premier League giants are interested in PSG coach Thomas Tuchel if they decide to sack Solskjaer.

- With Christian Eriksen seemingly set for an exit, Inter are considering their midfield transfer targets. CalcioMercato reports Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante remains Inter's dream signing, but Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum is also an option with his contract expiring at the end of the season. However, the report also says Inter could challenge Liverpool for the signing of Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Yves Bissouma.

- Also at Liverpool, the Premier League champions are reportedly still eyeing a centre-back amid their injury woes. Bild reports RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is on their list, as is his 21-year-old team-mate Ibrahima Konate.

- Atlanta United could be close to appointing a new coach. TyC Sports says former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze, most recently in charge of Velez Sarsfield, is a step away from taking over at the MLS club.

Minnesota United will contest their first MLS Western Conference final after making light work of Sporting Kansas City 3-0.

A three-goal first half, inspired by Kevin Molino's brace, saw Minnesota past Sporting KC on Thursday and through to a showdown with defending champions Seattle Sounders.

Minnesota, who entered the league in 2017, have won their last three matches by 3-0 scorelines, equalling the longest streak of wins by three-plus goals in MLS history – regular season or play-offs.

Molino opened the scoring in the 27th minute after combining with Emanuel Reynoso before beating Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia.

It was the Molino and Reynoso combination again eight minutes later – the former volleying home to double Minnesota's advantage at Children's Mercy Park.

Bakaye Dibassy made it 3-0 six minutes before half-time when he headed home an in-swinging corner from Reynoso.

Reynoso – the only player in the history of the MLS play-offs with multiple three-assist games – became the first player to record three assists in consecutive matches since Jaime Moreno in September 2004, per Opta.

Minnesota and Seattle will clash in the Conference final on Sunday.

MLS champions Seattle Sounders advanced to the Western Conference final after edging Dallas 1-0.

The Sounders progressed to their second successive conference decider thanks to Shane O'Neill, who settled Tuesday's contest in the 49th minute.

For only the second time this season and first since September 6, Seattle failed to record a shot on target in the opening half of a home fixture.

But O'Neill headed home his first goal for the club four minutes into the second half to break the deadlock and eventually move the Sounders to within a win of back-to-back appearances in the league showpiece.

The 27-year-old became the first player outside of Seattle's big three – Jordan Morris, Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz – to score for the Sounders since Will Bruin on October 22.

Dallas came close to equalising just past the hour mark when Michael Barrios rattled the post, while Andres Ricaurte's follow-up attempt was thwarted by a goal-line clearance via Yeimar Gomez Andrade.

The Sounders will face either Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota United for a spot in the December 12 final.

Columbus Crew will face New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference finals after their respective wins in the MLS Cup play-offs on Sunday.

Gyasi Zardes inspired Columbus in extra time of a 2-0 victory over Nashville.

The United States international's cutback found Pedro Santos to score the opener for the hosts in the 99th minute.

And, just four minutes later, Zardes sealed the win with a clinical finish in a one-on-one after being played in by Luis Diaz Espinoza.

Zardes has been directly involved in seven goals (five goals and two assists) in four matches against expansion sides over the past two MLS seasons, according to Opta.

It was enough for Columbus to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in four seasons, and New England await.

After finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Revolution beat Thierry Henry's Montreal Impact in the play-in round and stunned Philadelphia Union in the first round.

They continued their run with a 3-1 win over Orlando City on Sunday.

Carles Gil's 17th-minute penalty opened the scoring before Gustavo Bou made it 2-0.

Junior Urso pulled a scrappy goal back for Orlando after the half-hour mark, but their hopes of victory were hurt by Mauricio Pereyra's red card for a dangerous challenge in the 60th minute.

Still, Nani had a chance to equalise for Orlando in the 74th minute, only to see his penalty saved by Matt Turner.

The penalty save was just the second by a Revolution goalkeeper from the previous 23 on-target spot-kicks they had faced dating back to March 2016, according to Opta.

Instead, Bou got on the end of Gil's pass to poke in the sealer four minutes from time, sending New England to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2014.

Defending MLS champions Seattle Sounders booked their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals after accounting for Los Angeles FC 3-1.

Seattle booked their spot in the second round of the play-offs thanks to goals from Jordan Morris, Nico Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz on Tuesday, earning a home date with Dallas.

Morris, Lodeiro and Ruidiaz all scored in the same MLS match for the fourth time, more than any other trio of team-mates since the start of the 2018 season, per Opta.

Lodeiro opened the scoring in the 18th minute – Morris teeing up the Uruguayan for a first-time shot past LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega.

LAFC's star captain Carlos Vela had a penalty saved three minutes later as Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei stopped a non-shoot-out spot-kick for the first time since April 2016, after allowing goals on the previous 18 on-target penalties he had faced.

After Morris and Lodeiro hit the woodwork in quick succession, Ruidiaz doubled the lead in the 66th minute before Eduard Atuesta reduced the deficit 11 minutes later.

Morris, though, restored Seattle's two-goal advantage within three minutes as the Sounders moved through to the next round.

Meanwhile, expansion franchise Nashville stunned Toronto 1-0 after extra time to earn an Eastern Conference semi-finals berth.

Daniel Rios' 108th-minute goal settled the contest in Connecticut, where seventh seeds Nashville became the third team in MLS history to win each of their first two play-off matches.

Rios' winner was also the first Toronto has ever conceded in extra time of a MLS play-off clash.

Nashville will now face Columbus Crew for a place in the Conference finals.

In the day's other fixture, New England Revolution shocked Eastern Conference top seeds Philadelphia Union 2-0.

First-half goals from Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan set the tone for the Revolution, who are the first team to score multiple goals in an away match against the Union all season.

Next up for Bruce Arena's Revolution are Orlando City.

Dallas and Sporting Kansas City advanced in the MLS Cup play-offs after thrilling penalty shoot-out wins on Sunday.

Ricardo Pepi's 93rd-minute equaliser for Dallas cancelled out Jorge Villafana's opener for the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

And after a marathon 16 penalties, Dallas prevailed 8-7 in the shoot-out as Jimmy Maurer saved from Villafana for the match-winning moment.

The opener came in the 82nd minute, Diego Valeri playing a pass to put Villafana in behind and the defender powered a finish into the roof of the net.

Valeri's assist was his 10th direct shot involvement in the match – four shots and six chances created – the most by a Timbers player in an MLS Cup play-offs match, according to Opta.

Just as Portland looked set to advance, Dallas equalised in the 93rd minute, Ricardo Pepi, 17, finishing a rebound after Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark managed to save his initial effort onto the post.

It was the fourth time this MLS season that Portland had conceded a second-half stoppage-time equaliser. No other team has allowed more than two.

Valeri hit the post in the dying moments of extra time as the third penalty shoot-out through seven play-offs matches followed, already equalling the most traditional shoot-outs in a single postseason in MLS history.

After the first 15 penalties of the shoot-out were scored, Villafana was denied by Maurer, who sent Dallas through.

Los Angeles FC or the Seattle Sounders await Dallas in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Sporting Kansas City advanced after a thrilling penalty shoot-out win over the San Jose Earthquakes at Children's Mercy Park, where their encounter finished locked at 3-3.

Gianluca Busio looked to have won the encounter in additional time for Sporting, finishing after a wonderful flick from Khiry Shelton in the 91st minute to make it 3-2.

However, there was even more drama to follow, Chris Wondolowski heading in a 97th-minute equaliser from close range after Cristian Espinoza's cross.

Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia would be the hero in the shoot-out, saving spot-kicks from Oswaldo Alanis, Jackson Yueill and Espinoza as Johnny Russell, Ilie and Shelton scored.

Melia became the first goalkeeper to shut out an opponent in a traditional penalty shoot-out in MLS Cup play-offs history.

In the Western Conference semi-finals, Sporting will face Minnesota United, who beat the Colorado Rapids 3-0 thanks to a brace from Kevin Molino.

Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja will not soon forget his side's "insane" penalty shootout win over New York City on Saturday.

One of the most remarkable endings to an MLS playoff match saw Orlando triumph 6-5 after Rodrigo Schlegel, the substitute defender, stepped up as emergency goalkeeper and saved from Gudmundur Thorarinsson.

Schlegel volunteered to go in goal after Pedro Gallese had been sent off for a second yellow card for encroachment during the spot-kicks, which lasted for more than 21 and a half minutes.

Gallese, who kept 10-man Orlando in the contest as the match finished 1-1 after extra time, was sent off having already celebrated what he thought was a decisive save from Taty Castellanos.

With Pareja unable to introduce replacement keeper Brian Rowe, Schlegel donned the gloves and kept out Thorarinsson's effort, allowing Benji Michel to seal a sudden-death victory and give Orlando their first ever playoff win.

"I think we'll need more time to calm down and reflect on what happened," Pareja told reporters. "The analysis of the game, it may wait for tomorrow [Sunday] when we can analyse the soccer side.

"What just happened at the end, I never saw it before. And this is the beauty of this game, that we're humans and full of emotions and mistakes and good things and all of that. But today the ball [was] bouncing our way.

"After what just happened I can laugh, but believe me, this is insane tonight."

Pareja described Orlando as "10 men on the field multiplying themselves for this team, that made me very proud" after Ruan's reckless challenge in the 87th minute handed New York the initiative.

"The boys showed the heart of this franchise. They showed with all that intensity, sacrifice after we lost Ruan," he said.

"Obviously we need to make many corrections and many things that happened in that last part, but we are proud to represent this community. We are proud to win and beat one of the best teams in Major League Soccer.

"We will prepare [for] the next game, because this doesn't stop, but what happened today, that will keep in my memory forever."

Amid the chaos of the penalties, Pareja will always remember four simple words from Schlegel that changed Orlando's fate: "Papi, I can do that."

"Rodri told [Gallese], 'I was a goalkeeper when I was in the academy.' So, we just gave him the gloves and prayed," Pareja said. "That was very chaotic, for sure."

Schlegel, who was making only his 11th appearance for the Lions since joining on loan from Racing Club, recalled: "I wasn't really able to think about too much.

"When I was able to make the stop, I thought that we had won and it was a lot of happiness, but then we had to wait for Benji to take his kick, and then just a bunch of happiness and thinking what luck we had."

An unforgettable ending to the game means Orlando, who reached the final of the MLS is Back Tournament in August, are into a first Eastern Conference semi-final against either Philadelphia Union or New England Revolution.

"It means a lot, being in the playoffs, and just sending a message to the community that we're not just content with just bringing them to the playoffs, that the players want more," Pareja added.

"They know that the responsibility is on our shoulders to bring joy, and to make this team protagonist of Major League Soccer. With all these circumstances, what happened, it magnifies what they've done, what they did today.

"It has been a long journey, this year, with all that happened, with the pandemic, with people being in their houses and not being able to come to the stadium, people suffering and many others losing their loved ones. And we have such emotions in our body, in our minds that we want to get out, and today the game gave us that opportunity, to bring all those emotions."

Manchester City are reportedly set to extend the contracts of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as they consider another forward.

Pep Guardiola signed a two-year extension at City this week, keeping him at the Premier League giants until 2023.

And more re-signings look set to follow.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY SET TO OFFER NEW DEALS TO STERLING, JESUS

Manchester City are set to offer Raheem Sterling a new deal, according to the Mirror.

Sterling, 25, is contracted at City until 2023, but the club are hopeful he will renew on improved terms.

Also under contract until 2023, Jesus is set for a bumper new deal, the Daily Star reports.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Manchester City and Pep Guardiola is considering Benfica and Uruguay forward Darwin Nunez as a successor to Sergio Aguero, according to The Telegraph. Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Also coming out of contract at the end of the campaign is Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Corriere dello Sport says Inter are eyeing the midfielder in January, while the Serie A giants are also looking at Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul as they consider selling Christian Eriksen.

- As Olivier Giroud struggles for game time at Chelsea, the striker is linked with a move. The Mirror says David Beckham's Inter Miami are considering making an offer for the France international in January.

- Yet to play in the Premier League this season, Dean Henderson may look to leave Manchester United. The Sun reports the goalkeeper wants a January loan move to boost his chances of keeping his spot in England's squad for next year's European Championship. It says Leeds United and Brighton and Hove Albion are interested.

- Another Manchester United goalkeeper seeking an exit is Sergio Romero. The Mirror reports United are prepared to accept £2.5million for Romero in January, having wanted double that during the close season.

Columbus Crew booked their place in the Eastern Conference semi-finals with a 3-2 victory over Gerhard Struber's New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup playoffs.

Struber, taking charge of his first Red Bulls game, saw Caden Clark put his side ahead in the 23rd minute of Saturday's knockout clash at MAPFRE Stadium

Yet Pedro Santos' penalty restored parity inside three minutes, and Darlington Nagbe struck just 23 seconds into the second half to complete the turnaround.

Gyasi Zardes made it 3-1 in the 68th minute, sending a floated header back across goal after latching onto Derrick Etienne Jr's cross.

Struber had hope when Brian White pulled one back in the 90th minute, though it proved nothing more than a footnote after Tom Barlow missed the chance to equalise in stoppage time.

The Crew join Orlando City in the semi-finals, with the Florida team having overcome New York City FC 6-5 in a remarkable penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw.

Penalty shootouts are dramatic by nature, but the 21-minute, 35-second showdown between Orlando City and New York City will take some beating.

With the scores finishing level at 1-1 after extra-time in Saturday's MLS playoff encounter, penalties were required to settle the contest.

NYCFC's Maxi Moralez stepped up to take the first penalty, hitting the crossbar, and 10-man Orlando stayed perfect to claim a 4-3 lead.

Valentin Castellanos took NYCFC's vital fifth penalty yet was denied by Pedro Gallese, who lunged low to his right, sparking Orlando celebrations.

However, a VAR check deemed that Gallese had moved off his line before the spot-kick had been taken and, to add further insult, Orlando's goalkeeper – who had earlier been booked for time-wasting – was shown a second yellow card.

Perplexed Lions coach Oscar Pareja had to be brought back onto the touchline, where he instructed substitute goalkeeper Brian Rowe to come on, despite having made five changes prior to the shootout.

Referee Allen Chapman allowed Rowe on, only to then be informed of his mistake and, after extensive discussions with his fellow officials, tell the goalkeeper to leave the pitch.

Defender Rodrigo Schlegel donned the gloves instead and could not get close to Castellanos' second attempt, with NYCFC's Sean Johnson then making an acrobatic stop to deny Nani and force sudden death.

Nicolas Acevedo and Robin Jansson exchanged successful spot-kicks, but Schlegel secured a place in MLS folklore when he saved Gudmundur Thorarinsson's effort.

There was still time for more drama, however, as referee Chapman signalled for full time, despite Orlando still having one more penalty to make. The league's official Twitter account also declared the Lions winners.

Orlando's players were celebrating once more before the official realised his error, but his blushes were spared when Benji Michel emphatically made sure of a 6-5 shootout triumph, capping an extraordinary series of events.

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