Orlando City travels to Philadelphia on Wednesday night to face off against the Union in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. A win would see the Lions reach the tournament semifinals for the first time in club history.
Wednesday night’s affair will be the third time that Orlando City has played in the tournament’s quarterfinal and the second time since joining MLS in 2015. The first run came during the 2013 season when the then-third division Lions defeated the Colorado Rapids at the Citrus Bowl in the third round, led by a brace by striker Dom Dwyer.
Controversy surrounded the fourth-round match against Sporting Kansas City, as SKC Head Coach Peter Vermes didn’t want to see his loaned players facing off against his first team squad. Vermes claimed that it was up to U.S. Soccer, despite the fact that U.S. Soccer stated it was up to the club and several other MLS teams faced loaned players in the tournament.
The game would be one of the most memorable wins in Orlando City history as the Lions, without their loaned players and others on international duty, defeated the MLS side and cup holders on the road to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time. The lone goal in the game was a second-minute strike by striker Long Tan.
While many MLS clubs tend to play lesser sides in the Open Cup, preferring to focus on the league, Adrian Heath stated that Orlando City would take the tournament seriously. That’s exactly what the club did in 2015 as the Lions advanced past the Charleston Battery on penalties and beat the Columbus Crew, 2-0 at the Citrus Bowl in the fifth round.
The first two quarterfinal matches for the Lions came against the Chicago Fire in Illinois. Unlike many MLS teams, the Fire have never held back in the cup, winning the tournament four times, tying the club for second in tournament history.
Chris Rolfe scored in the sixth minute of the first match-up in 2013, providing the Fire with an early lead. However, the Lions settled down and equalized in the 51st minute through a Rob Valentino goal, which gave confidence that the USL side may complete another shocking upset. The flood gates opened following the goal with the Fire going on to score four unanswered and winning the game, 5-1.
Two years later, the Lions headed back up to Illinois once again to face the Fire in the quarterfinals, this time with the two teams in the same league. This one started very similar to the first meeting with the Fire taking the early third-minute lead through a goal by Patrick Nyarko. Cyle Larin equalized in the 56th minute before a pair of late goals by Kennedy Igboananike iced the game for the home side, 3-1.
Orlando City’s game Wednesday night will be the third time that the Lions have taken part in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, but the first time they haven’t had to travel to Illinois for the game. A win would see the club reach the semifinals for the first time in club history. Coincidentally, the Chicago Fire host former Orlando City affiliate Louisville City FC the same night, which means a win could see the Lions travel to face the Fire for a third time during the club’s eight years competing in the tournament.
While a win Wednesday night would provide some positive club history, more important would be that the team would be two wins away from its first trophy since joining MLS. Doing so will not be easy, as it will likely take going through the Union, Fire, and, potentially, SKC, three teams that have taken this tournament very seriously in the past, with the latter two being four-time champions. It starts Wednesday night when the team looks to add a positive to what has been a very difficult stretch.