The theatrical elements were there: scoreless in the late stages of the second half, surrounded by a sold-out crowd in the home stadium, and the US Open Cup Final on the line. All that was needed was a man of the hour. A star. A hero. The limelight scanned the stage and found Orlando City winger Facundo Torres, who proved he was ready to carry the show. In the last 15 minutes of the match, Torres scored two goals and provided an assist in extra time to deliver the first trophy to Orlando City SC since they joined Major League Soccer (MLS). With this performance, Torres was also voted as TheCup.us Player of the Round for the Finals of the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The Player of the Round award is voted by TheCup.us staff, a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters and select backers (those that pledge $10 or more) of TheCup.us’s Patreon team.
“I just got here and I’m already a part of Orlando’s club history,” Torres said. “I’m really happy about how the night went with the two goals and being a part of Orlando’s club history.”
Torres joined Orlando City SC on January 24th, 2022 as a club-record signing Designated Player. Having joined from his hometown club in Uruguay, Club Atlético Peñarol, Torres had to adjust to the style and physicality of the MLS. If you ask those in the clubhouse, he’s evolved and overcome many of those obstacles.
“If you’ve been watching Orlando, you’ve seen the evolution of Facundo,” said Orlando City General Manager, Luis Muzzi. “He’s much more free-flowing and confident, he knows the league and the opponents. He knows the flights, the variables.”
His confidence allowed him to score a left-footed shot past Sacramento’s goalkeeper in the 75th minute to break the deadlock. The second goal of the night came in the 80th minute, when Torres scored a penalty kick that was earned by teammate Benji Michel. To cap off the night, Torres thread the needle and provided Michel the key pass needed to score in second-half stoppage time. Playing USL Championship club Sacramento Republic in the Final posed unfamiliar challenges to Torres and the rest of his teammates.
“Especially with a team that we don’t know so well and can actually be dangerous, the key for the match, up to the 70th minute, was to be able to keep calm and find those three goals,” Torres said.
By the final whistle, Torres led his club with two goals, six shots, and three chances created. His two goals allowed him to finish the tournament with four total, which led the club. He also carried a passing accuracy of 83% across 47 passes and even displayed some defensive acumen, winning 6 of 9 ground duels. His distribution in the final third also earned him heavy praise after the game.
When asked about Torres, Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja said, “I think those players that change the game and take their teams on their shoulders are difficult to find.” Pareja added, “In Facu, we have found that already. This one game, he just took that magical moment that brought us.”
“He’s such a smart player, he’s an all-around player,” said Ricardo Moreira, Orlando City Technical Director. “He moves around and finds pockets of space, so he needed to adapt to the game and we needed to adapt to Facundo. I’d say the sky’s the limit, I’m very happy with his performances.” Moreira also added, “Every place we play away from home, you can see Uruguayan fans singing for him, he’s got his own personal fan clubs. It’s amazing.”
There are few stages big enough to handle his current ascent to stardom, but one remains elusive: the World Cup. The Uruguayan hopes this performance was enough to join La Celeste in Qatar in November. Beyond that, Torres could be lured to European leagues.
“I hope we can keep him for a lot longer,” Muzzi added. “He’s a player who will definitely be playing for one of the big clubs from Europe one day. But it’s not going to be now. Hopefully we can get a few trophies before he goes.”
Orlando City fans certainly hope he sticks around, as well. They’ve already won the US Open Cup. Now it’s time for the club to win the MLS, then the CONCACAF Champions League. With Torres on their roster, that trophy case has a good chance of getting crowded before he leaves.