This is the big one, folks. Orlando City host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night for a spot in the final of the 2022 US Open Cup. Easily among the biggest games in Orlando City's history, this is a daunting task for a Lions team struggling in MLS play over the last month.
The matchup against the New York Red Bulls doesn't bode well for the home side either.
To get to the semifinal, the Red Bulls destroyed their Hudson River rivals, New York City FC, 3-0 in the quarterfinals. It was an incredibly feisty affair with three red cards, but the young Red Bulls took down the reigning MLS Cup Champions in comfortable fashion.
These two sides faced off in a nationally televised matchup earlier this season where the Red Bulls absolutely eviscerated Orlando City. New York left Exploria Stadium with a 3-0 win that could've been even worse. The Lions had zero answers for the high pressing Red Bull football and generated a paltry 0.12 expected goals on three shots.
The Red Bulls have their flaws as a team this season, namely the lack of a true striker with the massive under performance from Patryk Klimala, but they're still an elite team and undoubtedly a Red Bull team. It's a stingy defensive team anchored by USMNT center back Aaron Long. In MLS play, they've conceded the fifth fewest goals in the league and are always one of the most frustrating teams to try and play against.
Offensively things aren't as great, though the constant pressure will create dangerous chances in transition, which the Lions are very prone to conceding. Former Inter Miami winger Lewis Morgan leads New York with nine goals and Brazilian DP midfielder Luquinhas is second with five goals.
Against Austin FC on the weekend, a 4-3 win for New York, manager Gerhard Struber made sure to manage the minutes of his star players, meaning Orlando is getting the best possible version of the Red Bulls on Wednesday night.
Orlando historically struggles with the Red Bull system and recently lost 1-0 to the Red Bull-lite Philadelphia Union. All history points to another big loss for the Lions, but the Open Cup is a mysterious and wild phenomenon. Maybe a bit of cup magic will be sprinkled on the Exploria Stadium grass and Orlando City can make it to its first non-COVID final in MLS history.