In the 107th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Orlando City is taking on USL side Sacramento Republic. Despite this being a matchup no one expected heading into the cup, its implications remain huge for both teams.
Orlando City saw a major turnover in players after last season. Key departures like Daryl Dike and Luis Nani left many questions to be answered about the future of the club. However, new signings like Facundo Torres and Ronald Arajuo have satisfied the bitter taste left in the mouths of many fans.
After scraping by Inter Miami and Nashville in penalties, Orlando City faced quite the test against New York Red Bulls in the semifinal. Having won only one of their previous six league games to that point, the team held a players-only meeting. Whatever was discussed in that meeting, must’ve produced a spark.
Orlando City went on to thrash New York 5-1 setting up a chance for the first trophy in the club’s MLS history.
After dropping their first two games since that big win, Orlando has won four straight and hope to carry that momentum into their match against Sacramento. “The best teams sometimes are not the ones who play the best, but they want to overcome situations,” said manager Oscar Pareja. Pareja seems to have instilled a no-quit mentality in his side since he took over three seasons ago.
Orlando City has quality all over the field despite losing star forward Alexandre Pato to injury for the rest of the season. Robin Jansson and Pedro Gallese headline a strong defense that has seen both of them earn MLS team of the week honors. Mauricio Pereyra is also the engine of an impressive midfield.
Look for Orlando City to be aggressive right from kick-off as they look to be the first team to take down Sacramento in the cup.
Perhaps one of the most impressive runs from a USL club in recent memory, Sacramento looks to become only the second non-MLS club to win the cup since the MLS formed in 1996. Their journey to the final has been anything but easy, taking out San Jose, Los Angeles and Sporting KC in the process.
Their latest win against four-time cup champions Sporting Kansas City was perhaps the most special. After a 120-minute 0-0 stalemate, the game went to penalty kicks. Both teams scored their first four attempts, but longtime former US Men’s National Team defender had his penalty saved by Danny Vitiello.
Rodrigo López then scored to send Sacramento to the final.
The Sacramento Republic faces another formidable opponent that is in fine form at the moment
Manager Mark Briggs understands that his team is once again the underdog heading into the final. “We can go out there and enjoy the gameplay without fear and play with courage. We’ll not have any pressure on us,” Briggs said.
While the USL side is facing another tough test, it’s nothing they already haven’t accomplished.
Orlando City will host Sacramento on Wednesday, September 7 at 8:00 P.M.