Torres, Michel inspire Orlando City to U.S. Open Cup glory
10: 48 PM ET
Second half goals from Facundo Torres and Benji Michel gave Orlando City SC a 3-0 win over Sacramento Republic in Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final, providing Orlando with their first trophy since their 2015 Major League Soccer debut and a spot in the 2023 CONCACAF Champions League.
Sacramento held their own in the first 45 minutes, staying defensively organized against the eventual champions that had more possession but no shots on target. In the second half, Orlando ultimately broke down the Republic, leading to Torres scoring in the 75th minute and an ensuing goal in the 80th through a penalty. In injury time, Torres would step up once again with an assist for Michel’s goal in the 96th.
The Republic, second division underdogs as members of the USL Championship, appeared devastated in the final stages and failed to find the back of the net by the final whistle.
1. In the face of “spygate,” Orlando emerge triumphant
First things first, we have to give credit to Orlando. Oscar Pareja, his players and manager have managed to fight their way through a few impressive U.S. Open Cup matches to reach Wednesday’s championship. They are still in a playoff-worthy position in MLS’ Eastern Conference. The victory over the Republic earns Orlando not only their first trophy since joining MLS but also a long-awaited invitation to the next edition CCL. Despite playing the role as Goliath against lower league opponents, Orlando did not win any neutrals when it was reported that a team employee had allegedly watched Sacramento training. ESPN’s Taylor Twellman was the first to break the news, with colleague Jeff Carlisle reporting that the Republic had filed a complaint to the U.S. Soccer Federation. The USSF has not yet made a decision.
In the end, spying or not, it may not have made much of a difference in Wednesday’s match, but it could end up leaving a small but noticeable stain on the title if USSF confirms that an Orlando staffer was surveying the practice.
2. Despite loss, Sacramento finish extraordinary cup run
The Republic had already exceeded expectations by just stepping onto the pitch against Orlando. Leading up to the final, Sacramento were the first non-MLS finalists since 2008 that were aiming to become the first lower league team to lift the U.S. Open Cup trophy in the 21st century.
Once set to join MLS as an expansion franchise — and then put on indefinite hiatus in early 2021 — Sacramento played with a chip on their shoulder as they stunned three MLS sides in their journey to the U.S. Open Cup final.
Manager Mark Briggs, his squad, didn’t allow Orlando to score until the second half. This gave hope for an unlikely victory but it was too late. With space to roam, Orlando created much-needed opportunities in the final third and scored three times after the 70th minute.
Sacramento have proven that they can keep up with MLS sides, but on Wednesday when it mattered most, they came up short against a group of Orlando players that are deserving champions.
3. Torres and Michel, the difference-makers for Orlando
At just 22 years of age, Torres will go down as the young hero of the night with his two goals and assist. The winger, determined to secure a World Cup spot on Uruguay‘s roster, took charge with not only his brace, but also his scrappy duels and distribution in the final third that helped find the final goal of the night.
Deserving just as much praise, and perhaps more, is Michel. After stepping in during the 61st minute, the 24-year-old American was brilliant as an active attacker that won a penalty and provided an assist before scoring in injury time. Orlando could have had a different ending in the championship match if it weren’t for Michel and Torres.
Sacramento Republic: Daniel Vitiello 5, Lee Desmond 6, Conor Donovan 5, Dan Casey 4, Damia Viader 6, Luis Felipe Fernandes 6, Matt LaGrassa 6, Jack Gurr 6, Rodrigo Lopez 7, Maalique Foster 6, Keko 7
Subs: Douglas Martinez 6, Emil Cuello 7, Luther Archimede 6, Nick Ross 6
Orlando City: Pedro Gallese 7, Joao Moutinho 8, Rodrigo Schlegel 7, Antonio Carlos 7, Ruan 7, Mauricio Pereyra 6, Cesar Araujo 7, Junior Urso 6, Ivan Angulo 7, Ercan Kara 5, Facundo Torres 9
Subs: Benji Michel 9, Kyle Smith 7, Tesho Akindele 7, Andres Perea 6, Wilder Cartagena 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Benji Michel, Orlando
It’s a close one between Michel and Torres, but it has to go to Michel for his instant impact off the bench through his goal, assist and penalty won. Orlando’s native product was the most active player on the field with less than half an hour to go.
WORST: Dan Casey, Sacramento
Casey was quietly doing fine before his blunders that changed the entire outcome of the final. The Republic were keeping pace with Orlando until Casey gave up a ball for Torres’ first goal in the 75th. A reckless challenge by the defender resulted in a penalty and the ensuing second goal.
Highlights and notable moments
The 12th man was in full effect in Orlando’s sold-out home venue.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) September 8, 2022
The Exploria Stadium was electric throughout the evening and was arguably at its most lively and loudest after Orlando’s first goal went in.
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) September 8, 2022
After the match: What the managers, players said
“Colombia, my country, my people in my family. I’m proud to be a Colombian, who came to this country to show the world that we are good. When Pareja was asked about his thoughts after Orlando won the title, he was emotional.
” We came in with a four game winning streak in MLS… this cup gives me some motivation to fight in the league.” – Torres discusses the additional push that the title can give Orlando as it looks ahead to a possible playoff run.
Sacramento Republic: Back in USL action on Saturday, hosting Loudon United FC.
Orlando City: A trip up to visit the best team in the MLS Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Union, on Saturday.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.