US Open Cup Final Preview

Seattle Sounders FC v Sporting Kansas City. Ed Zurga/GettyImages
Seattle Sounders FC v Sporting Kansas City. Ed Zurga/GettyImages / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

The chance is coming up. Orlando City is just one win away from winning their first ever trophy, as they get ready to battle the Sacramento Republic in the finals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Wednesday evening.

Here's everything you need to know for the match:

  • When=Wednesday, September 7th. 8:00 pm Eastern
  • Where=Exploria Stadium (Orlando, Fla.)
  • How to Watch=ESPN+

While some might be upset with the match only being available on a streaming service, there are a few ways to look at this. 1, I believe that ESPN+ still has a free trial that you should be able to use to watch this match without paying. 2, With College Football and collegiate soccer season here as well, it might be worth getting ESPN+. 3, There are the bundles out there to get ESPN+ along with other streaming services provided by Disney. This isn't an advertisement for Disney/ESPN+ at all, but I just don't want it to be the impetus that keeps fans from being able to watch the match. Also of note, this is the final year of the agreement between the tournament and ESPN+.

Players to watch

A key player that Orlando will have to watch out for is Sacramento captain and midfielder Rodrigo Lopez. Lopez is about as well traveled of a soccer player as you will find. At 35 years old, he has played for over ten clubs with time split between MLS, USL, and Liga MX. Even at his older age, Lopez has played some of the best soccer of his career in this Open Cup, and is a leader on and off the pitch for Sacramento. He is currently tied for the competition lead with four goals, and he scored a key early goal in Sacramento's win over the LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals.

Also, if that name looks familiar, then it should. Lopez played eight matches for Orlando back in the Lions USL days back in 2012. So that's a neat trivia question for you to ask people as you prepare of the match.

For Orlando, they have two players that have scored multiple goals in the tournament so far: Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo. Also, Ercan Kara and Tesho Akindele have been playing really well of late in MLS play. I expect those two, alongside Torres, to be crucial to Orlando's hopes of winning the Cup. Orlando should have the raw talent advantage in this match, and this group of players, along with others, will need to play up to their abilities on Wednesday.

How They Got Here

Sacramento has had a pretty much unprecedented run to get to this point. They are the first USL club to make it to the tournament final in this iteration of the Open Cup. Sacramento has won six matches in the tournament overall up to this point. They started with a 6-0 drubbing of the Portland Timbers U-23's in the 2nd round. Then they knocked off Central Valley Fuego SC 2-1 in the 3rd round.

In the Round of 32, Sacramento defeated Phoenix Rising 2-0. Then came the MLS competition for Sacrament in the Round of 16. Even the uptick in competition couldn't slow them down. They knocked off San Jose 2-0 in the Round of 16, the LA Galaxy 2-1 in the quarterfinals, and then took down Sporting KC in a penalty kick shootout in the semi's.

To get here, Orlando dominated the New York Red Bulls in the semifinals 5-1 after scoring four goals in the 2nd half to pull away. Before that, Orlando knocked off Nashville and Inter Miami in penalties in the quarterfinals and Round of 16 respectively. The Lions beat Philadelphia 2-1 in the Round of 32. The journey in the tournament for Orlando started with a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL in the 3rd round.

What to Expect

It should be a great atmosphere for this match as Orlando will be hosting the match in Exploria Stadium. Orlando hosted the semi's as well, in front of an announced attendance of 11,612. I expect a good bit more than that to turn out on Wednesday, even though it is against a USL squad and even with it being a midweek matchup. It is an opportunity to be a part of history, with Orlando getting a chance to lift a trophy for the first time. The Lions might win trophies in the future, but there will always be only one first. This is a big opportunity for the Orlando community.

In terms of what lineup to expect, I expect a nearly, if not completely full, first team XI for Orlando. When you get this far, you go all in on winning the whole thing. Even with Orlando fighting in the Eastern Conference playoff race and having a match coming on Saturday, I believe that Orlando should take the risk of rolling everyone out there for this match. There's a spot in the Concacaf Champions League on the line for crying out loud. And just because Sacramento is a USL team should not mean anything. They have knocked off three MLS teams to get here.

PREDICTION= Orlando 2-Sacramento 1

Orlando has come close to winning a trophy before. Just two years ago, Orlando made it to the finals of the MLS is back tournament, but fell in the finals of that event to the Portland Timbers 2-1. The Lions have a chance this week though to rectify that.

(And yes, technically Orlando won the Orlando City Invitational Trophy in 2019, but I'm not fully counting a preseason tournament as a full trophy).