With Orlando City set to step into the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday against Memphis 901 FC, it’s worth a look back to see how the Lions have done throughout their previous eight years of history in the event. Although Orlando has never advanced past the quarterfinals, the Lions have been quite competitive in the tournament dating back to their first few USL seasons.
Orlando City holds an all-time record of 11-8-2* in U.S. Open Cup play and has gone as far as the quarterfinals in 2013, 2015, and 2018, but no further.
*The Lions drew the Charleston Battery, 4-4, in 2015 and D.C. United 1-1 last year, but advanced on penalties both times. These technically count as draws even though Orlando City moved on in the tournament. Those are the rules. Don’t @ me about it.
As a USL team, Orlando went 8-4-0 in USOC matches and reached the quarterfinal round once. The Lions went 2-4-0 against MLS teams during its first four years of competition and gave eventual champion Sporting Kansas City everything it could handle in 2012, despite being a man down late in that match. As an MLS side, the Lions are just 3-4-2, but if you count advancing as winning, they’re 5-4, so that’s still pretty decent.
Let’s look at the Lions’ results year by year.
Orlando City entered its first U.S. Open Cup in 2011 as one of 11 USL Pro teams to participate. The Lions easily clobbered the ASC New Stars, 4-0 in the first round, with Devorn Jorsling scoring twice and both Kevin Molino and Dennis Chin adding one. The second round saw Orlando squaring off with the league rival Charleston Battery, winning 1-0 on a 39th-minute Rob Valentino goal. Orlando finally bowed out in the third round after a dramatic and hard-fought 3-2 battle with FC Dallas on the road. Maxwell Griffin opened the scoring for Orlando, but Dallas fought back with goals by Jackson and Ricardo Villar. Yordany Alvarez tied the match in stoppage time but the hosts broke Orlando hearts with a winner just seconds later by Milton Rodriguez. Dallas advanced to the semifinals that year before falling 1-0 at Seattle.
The USL Lions began the USOC run in their second year in Orlando in Round 2, one round after their U-23 team was beaten by Jacksonville United. The Lions destroyed KC Athletics 7-0 in the third round in a game played at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford. After a Coady Andrews own goal opened the scoring four minutes in, the Lions got two goals each from Griffin and John Rooney, as well as goals from Jamie Watson and Matt Luzunaris. The 2012 run ended with a 3-2 loss at Sporting Kansas City in the third round. Paulo Nagamura scored in first-half stoppage time and Molino pulled that goal back 10 minutes after the break. Soony Saad added two goals four minutes apart for the hosts before Chin pulled the Lions back in it with six minutes remaining in normal time. That was about all Orlando could do with 10 men after Ant Pulis had been sent off. SKC went on to win the tournament over the Seattle Sounders.
The Lions entered the competition in Round 2 in 2013, opening with a 2-1 road win over the Ocala Stampede. Dom Dwyer scored first for Orlando but the Stampede answered through Christian Blandon. Adama Mbengue scored the eventual winner in the 50th minute. Orlando pulled off a 3-1 upset win at home over Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids in Round 3. After Bryan Burke opened the scoring just four minutes in, Kamani Hill equalized 14 minutes later. Dwyer put the Lions ahead for good in the 48th minute and added a second in the 63rd. In the fourth round, Orlando got revenge on Sporting Kansas City with a 1-0 road win on a first-minute goal by Long Tan to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. The magical run ended at the hands of the Chicago Fire, who knocked the Lions out with an emphatic 5-1 win at Toyota Park. Valentino scored the lone Orlando goal, tying the game at 1-1 at the time but the Fire handled things easily from there. Chicago lost to eventual Cup winners D.C. United in the semifinals.
Orlando’s final foray into the U.S. Open Cup as a USL team came in 2014, entering the competition in the second round with a 4-1 win over the Ocala Stampede at Seminole Soccer Complex. Chin and Corey Hertzog each scored a brace. The Lions then beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the I-4 Derby by the same 4-1 score in Round 3. Molino bagged a brace and Austin da Luz and Mbengue also scored to more than offset a Blake Wagner score. Orlando went out in Round 4 on the road against the Rapids, 5-2. Mbengue and Luke Boden scored for the Lions while current OCSC midfielder Dillon Powers scored one of Colorado’s five goals. The club’s U-23 side ended its impressive run in the same round, falling 3-0 on the road to the Portland Timbers.
Orlando City finally entered the tournament as an MLS side in 2015, with the Lions opening their run in the fourth round — their latest entry into the competition. Their first USOC match in 2015 was an epic battle on the road against the Charleston Battery. After a scoreless first half, Orlando fell behind twice in the second period, with Lewis Neal and Carlos Rivas (from the penalty spot) bringing City back each time. The game went into extra time The Lions took a 4-2 lead in extra time as Rivas completed a hat trick — all from the spot. But the Battery stormed back with two goals from Justin Portillo — the second one coming from the spot after Amobi Okugo handled the ball in the box. The game ended 4-4 and went to penalties, where the Lions out-lasted the Battery, 9-8. Ironically, Rivas missed the first penalty for City. Making their kicks for Orlando were Pedro Ribeiro, Sean St. Ledger, Okugo, Rafa Ramos, Harrison Heath, Boden, Seb Hines, and Danny Mwanga, who made his most significant contribution in purple by hitting the winning spot kick. Earl Edwards Jr. stopped three Battery penalties in the shootout.
In Round 5, the Lions hosted Columbus and defeated the Crew at home, 2-0. Kaká and Rivas supplied the offense. Unfortunately, the Lions had to go back to Toyota Park for the quarterfinals and the Chicago Fire knocked out Orlando again, 3-1. Patrick Nyarko scored just three minutes in. Cyle Larin tied the game in the 56th minute but Chicago struck twice against a worn-down Lions side, with Kennedy Igboananike finding the net in the 87th and 90th minutes. The Fire bowed out at Philadelphia in the semifinals.
The Lions started off by defeating the Jacksonville Armada on the road, 1-0, with David Mateos scoring his only career goal with Orlando City to provide the winner on the road. However, Orlando fell 2-1 at home against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on a 120th-minute strike by PC, who went on to play for the Lions. PC’s goal came very much against the run of play. The Lions had out-shot the Strikers after halftime by a 20-1 margin and Hadji Barry hit the woodwork multiple times. Jose Angulo opened the scoring for the visitors in the 12th minute, but Molino equalized three minutes later. That was all the scoring until PC’s goal at the death, just moments before what would have been a penalty shootout. Chicago blanked the Strikers 3-0 in the quarterfinals one round later.
Orlando’s shortest Cup run happened two seasons ago, hosting Miami FC in the fourth round. Stefano Pinho — who, like PC went on to play for Orlando City — netted a hat trick for the visitors in the 3-1 win for Miami at Orlando City Stadium. Giles Barnes scored in the 79th minute to at least save the Lions the embarrassment of a home shutout. Miami then went to Atlanta and knocked out Atlanta United FC in the Round of 16, 3-2, but then lost to then-USL side FC Cincinnati, 1-0, in a battle of Cinderella teams.
Last season, the Lions went on the road three times in their tournament run and a different coach was on the sideline for each of the three matches. Orlando opened with a 3-0 win at Miami United FC on June 6, with Jason Kreis still in charge. Pinho scored for Orlando, and Powers and PC also notched goals, as each of them became a player to score in the U.S. Open Cup both for and against the Lions.
The Lions drew 1-1 with D.C. at Maryland SoccerPlex with Bobby Murphy on the bench on June 20. Luciano Acosta gave United a lead 10 minutes in on a rain-soaked night, but Justin Meram equalized seven minutes later. That was all of the scoring in normal time and then Orlando won the battle of spot kicks, 4-2. Yamil Asad and Acosta missed D.C.’s first two attempts. Orlando got successful penalties from Will Johnson, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller, and Josué Colmán, and an unsuccessful one from Jose Villarreal. Unfortunately, the Lions then lost 1-0 at the Philadelphia Union in the quarterfinals after James O’Connor took over. Alejandro Bedoya scored off a set piece scramble just four minutes into the match and Orlando could never find the tying goal. The Union beat the Fire in the semifinals before falling 3-0 in the final to the Houston Dynamo.
That’s the team’s history in the competition right up to this week’s game against USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC. What are your favorite memories from Orlando’s various Cup runs? Personally, I’ll never forget that insane 2015 game at Charleston, although there’s always something satisfying about sending the Rowdies home. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.