Orlando City beat the Sacramento Republic 3-0 on Wednesday to lift the 2022 US Open Cup title.
It marks the Lions’ first major trophy since becoming an MLS club in 2015, doing so in front of a sold-out Exploria Stadium.
Orlando naturally dominated against their USL opponents but were frustrated by a disciplined defensive performance, failing to register a shot on target throughout the first half – though they were rarely worried by Sacramento in their own box.
Midway through the second half, Orlando’s superior fitness began to show, and in the 75th minute, Republic defender Dan Casey was caught in possession, with the ball finding its way to Facundo Torres, who dispatched an excellent finish from the edge of the box.
The 10-time Uruguay international made it 2-0 from the penalty spot just five minutes later, while in the dying moments, Orlando homegrown Benji Michel added a third having already assisted Torres’ opener and drawn the penalty for his side’s second despite only coming on in the 61st minute.
There’s no doubting Michel’s introduction tipped the scales in Orlando’s favor on Wednesday, but Facundo Torres was still the star of the show.
The talented Uruguayan was always positive in his play and constantly looked for openings in the Sacramento backline.
Torres was one of the few players on the field capable of dispatching the sort of finish he managed for the opening goal, while he kept ice-cool composure to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and effectively seal the match from the penalty spot.
It was also Torres’ precision pass that set Michel away for his dream goal right at the end; a fitting moment for both the homegrown and the South American import alike.
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There was much talk prior to kick-off about the sell-out crowd at Exploria Stadium and whether it would carry Orlando over the line, or serve to add extra pressure to the occasion.
After the match, head coach Oscar Pareja was left in no doubt about the role of the supporters in Orlando’s success, praising their ‘energy’ and calling on them to turn out in similar numbers when rivals Atlanta United come to town next week.
“It was fantastic to see the energy,” Pareja said. “The players recognized immediately how it’s important. It’s something where the people have been supporting in difficult moments, but seeing the stadium full is great.
“I would like to ask them to come against Atlanta again. There is nothing like seeing that stadium and feeling that energy. Together we can do big things, but we need them.”
As a homegrown player, Michel, in particular, will have enjoyed playing in front of a bumper crowd that generated an atmosphere rarely seen at this stadium until now.
“It’s a good example for the community, our academy, our homegrowns and the introduction of a local guy who came and you saw his family, as you mentioned,” Pareja said of Michel. “It was fantastic to see him celebrating. This is Orlando.”
But, of course, it was the international class of Torres who really helped Orlando find the next level required to overcome a resolute Sacramento team.
Republic boss Mark Briggs was left in awe of the 22-year-old, who truly highlighted the disparity between MLS and USL on the night.
“We made a couple of errors and when you play against world-class players – Torres is going to the World Cup in November,” Briggs said of Torres. “I think Orlando played $9m for him. That’s more than the value of our club.”