It's officially game week for Orlando City. With that comes our game week content, one of the favorites being Throwback Thursday. Before each game, we'll remember a previous matchup with this week's opponent and reminisce about a great memory in Orlando City history.
Orlando doesn't have many great memories against the New York Red Bulls. But last year, the Lions had one of their greatest moments in club history against RBNY.
July 7, 2022.
Orlando City is hosting its second-ever US Open Cup semifinal. The Lions first reached the final four of American soccer's oldest competition in 2019, but they were defeated 2-0 on home soil.
That 2019 went on a miracle run to even get to that point. The team limped to an 11th place (out of 12) finish in the Eastern Conference in the one full season under head coach James O'Connor. It took a wild penalty shootout --- the Running of the Wall --- to advance in the Open Cup.
Eventual champions Atlanta United easily dispatched an overmatched Orlando City team en route to their second major trophy in as many seasons.
The 2022 team was different.
The club was in year three under new head coach Oscar Pareja --- one of the best coaches in all of MLS. He had helped the club rebuild and become a consistent player in the league. Orlando made the playoffs in its first two seasons under Pareja, and was looking to build again in 2022.
The Open Cup went on a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, but returned with a bang last year. After a round one victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL Championship, Orlando went on a miraculous run through the tournament.
The Lions defeated the eventual Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Union 2-1 before a pair of penalty shootout wins against Inter Miami and Nashville SC. After grinding tooth and nail, Orlando hosted the Red Bulls with a chance to advance to their first major final.
New York put Orlando's trophy dreams on the brink in the first half. The teams traded quality chances, before former Miami winger Lewis Morgan found the opener in first-half stoppage time.
The backbreaking goal nearly killed Orlando's momentum going into halftime, but U22 midfielder César Araújo had other plans.
The Uruguayan found the loose ball in the box after an Antonio Carlos header and hammered home a shot to tie the match heading into the halftime break. It was Araújo's first professional goal, and it came at the perfect moment for the Lions.
The second half was a euphoric celebration in a summer rain shower.
Club captain Mauricio Pereyra found the back of the net early in the half to give Orlando the lead, and the Lions dominated from then on. Araújo popped up with another set-piece goal and Facundo Torres laced a shot to the right corner to put the game out of reach.
Homegrown striker Benji Michel --- who's hard running completely changed the game in the second half --- capped a magical performance with another goal to give Orlando a 5-1 victory.
The result was a surreal domination, as the Lions ran rampant through a Red Bull team that previously defeated them 3-0 in Exploria Stadium in the MLS regular season. The win propelled Orlando into the US Open Cup final which it promptly won 3-0 against USL Championship side Sacramento Republic.