It finally happened. After eight seasons in Major League Soccer, Orlando City finally lifted their first silverware as they beat Sacramento Republic 3-0 on Wednesday night.
The Lions scored all three of their goals with only 15 minutes to go in the match, as the USL Championship side held the game scoreless for the majority.
“I think it’s important to recognize that Orlando has won the first style here,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “We are very proud of the community of the club, the fans, the players and have this opportunity to bring this trophy means a lot. We’re proud. Congratulations to all involved in this trophy. We are very grateful for tonight, and we’ll hope to continue and just give a lot of joy to the community.”
Pareja’s Open Cup win makes him just the second coach in the Modern Era (1995-present) to win a title with two different clubs, doing so with FC Dallas back in 2016. The only other to do it is the late Sigi Schmid when he won with LA Galaxy in 2001 and with the Seattle Sounders four times (2009-11, 2014).
After a scoreless first 74 minutes of action, the Lions broke through thanks to a combination of Ivan Angulo, Benji Michel and Facundo Torres. After Sacramento began to build out of the back, pressure from Angulo and Michel forced a turnover, allowing Michel to get off a pass to Torres to bend a shot around Danny Vitiello to break the deadlock.
Just five minutes later, Michel was involved in the second goal, as Dan Casey took down the Orlando homegrown player in the box. Facundo Torres stepped up and buried the penalty to double the lead for the Lions in the 80th minute.
That goal by Torres made him the fifth player in the Modern Era to have scored multiple goals in an Open Cup Final and the first to do it since 2016, when Oscar Pareja’s FC Dallas won, and Maxi Urruti notched a brace.
The Lions would add the cherry on top as Michel got in behind the Republic backline and tapped home the third, sealing the win for the Lions.
“They have a defense of three that is very difficult to break,” Pareja said on Michel. “We knew that Ercan will give us presence in the box, but there was a time in the game that we stuck (Michel) in there because we needed to stretch the field. Benji gave us that possibility to run in behind, to help us with the presence too. It was a good job by Ercan but at that point we needed more energy. And I thought Benji changed (the energy) tremendously.”
Wednesday’s result also marks the first time a Florida team has won the Open Cup since the St. Petersburg Kickers when they lifted the trophy in 1989. Fittingly, that same 1989 Kickers team was honored with a pre-game ceremony.
Orlando becomes the fifth team of the Modern Era to win the tournament while playing every game at home. They join the 2006 Chicago Fire, 2008 D.C. United, 2011 Seattle Sounders and the 2018 Houston Dynamo. Although, the Lions are the first to play six home games in a competition.
The home crowd was definitely a factor with a sold-out Exploria Stadium. The announced crowd of 25,527 was the eighth-largest crowd to ever watch a US Open Cup match in the tournament’s 107-year history. It was also the fourth largest crowd for a championship game.
In addition to lifting the club’s first major trophy, Orlando also wins $300,000 in prize money and qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League. Sacramento earns $100,000 as the runner-up.
The Lions will host a Championship celebration tomorrow at City Hall, with festivities kicking off at noon. The win also means the Orlando City flag will fly at City Hall in Sacramento as the mayors of each city placed a friendly wager on the game. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg will also have to make a contribution to a charity of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s choosing.
PHOTO GALLERY by Mathieu Starke