ORLANDO, FL.: It took something out of nothing for Orlando City to win the US Open Cup.
For 75 minutes, Orlando City plugged away with dominant control of the ball. By the end of the game Orlando City collected 52% of the possession. While it is not a number comparable to a club like Manchester City, Barcelona or Bayern Munich, most of that possession came in the offensive half.
Yet, for 75 minutes, Sacramento Republic did enough to prevent any real scoring chances. Each time the hosts truly forayed into the offensive third, an errant pass or a step up from the visitors took away any threat.
It truly was a nothing play. Sacramento held possession in its own half to seek some control. A torrid press from Benji Michel allowed Iván Angulo to force a turnover. As the ball popped to Michel, he laid it off for Facundo Torres. Within seconds of Sacramento losing the ball, the right winger lashed the ball from 18 yards out to beat Sacramento goalkeeper Danny Vitiello.
From then on, everything unraveled for the side bidding to be the first non-MLS side to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in nearly a quarter-century.
In stoppage time, homegrown talent and fan favorite Benji Michel capped off the best night in the young history of the purple and gold with City’s third. A raucous Exploria Stadium witnessed history. The Lions, which launched as a club in 2013, secured its first US Open Cup trophy.
Fittingly, it was Michel to lead the celebrations in front of Orlando City’s north wall of supporters.
Orlando City wins Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Despite the 3-0 scoreline in the end, Orlando City did not walk all over Sacramento Republic. Yes, Orlando City amassed more possession and shots. However, Sacramento always posed a threat on the counter.
In what specific iteration, Antônio Carlos lost track of Sacramento Republic’s Maalique Foster. Foster forced the Orlando City center-back to drag him down at the risk of a one-on-one with Orlando City shot-stopper Pedro Gallese.
In the end, the MLS-caliber talent proved too much for a USL side that currently sits in fourth in the USL western conference.
Sacramento Republic’s magic run ends
Take nothing away from Sacramento. The fact that they reached this game is celebratory on its own. The last side outside of Major League Soccer to match Sacramento’s achievements in the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup was the Charleston Battery. That was 14 years ago. Before then, it was that cup-winning Rochester Rhinos team of 1999.
This run to the final started in the second round. Over its six wins, Sacramento Republic knocked off three MLS teams, including two wins over fellow California teams San Jose and LA Galaxy.
Based on the MLS table, Orlando City was the ‘best’ team Sacramento played in this run. A talented bunch of Lions made the clock strike midnight.
Facundo Torres’s Man-of-the-Match performance
In any final, regardless of the importance or significance, a winning team needs one player to step up to make the difference. For Orlando City, that player was Facundo Torres.
The opening goal was a pearl, simple as that. A team effort to win the ball back, sure. However, the strike from the top of the area to the right side of Sacramento’s Danny Vitiello is a goal worthy of a club’s first US Open Cup trophy.
Torres slotted home the penalty just five minutes later. Then, to cap off his brilliant second half display, he set up Benji Michel to score. Michel himself was a huge difference maker off the bench. In addition to his goal, he picked up the assist on the opener. Plus, he is the player who won the penalty that Torres stepped up to convert. His speed against a somewhat tired Sacramento back line proved to be a body blow in this boxing match of a final.
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