Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup final match-up between Orlando City and Sacramento Republic FC at Exploria Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN+). It’s the first time the teams have met and it’s all on the line.
Here’s what you need to know for the match.
There isn’t any history. This is the first meeting between the teams. However, that doesn’t mean there are no ties between the clubs. Sacramento Republic starting defender Conor Donovan was Orlando City’s second-round draft pick (No. 22 overall) in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Donovan made his professional debut in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup on June 17 of that year, playing at Charleston in the Lions’ 4-4 draw against the Battery, with Orlando advancing 8-7 after 10 rounds of penalties. Donovan played in one MLS game with Orlando City but suffered a torn ACL against the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 8, 2015, after just 10 minutes on the field. He recovered and played 35 matches with OCB over the course of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, scoring one goal.
Sacramento midfielder Rodrigo Lopez played for Orlando City in 2012 when the team was still in the USL. Lopez appeared in eight matches and scored one goal before moving on to the Los Angeles Blues the next season.
The Lions enter tonight on a four-game winning streak, having come from behind to dispatch the Seattle Sounders 3-2 on Aug. 31 in their most recent outing. That won’t mean anything in this competition, in which the Lions have played every game of the tournament at home. Orlando City started its run with back-to-back 2-1 wins over the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Philadelphia Union, followed by a pair of draws against Inter Miami and Nashville SC. The Lions advanced on penalties against both teams to reach the semifinal against the New York Red Bulls. After falling behind 1-0 in first-half stoppage time, the Lions scored five unanswered goals to win 5-1 and advance to the final.
Orlando is 7-7-0 at home in MLS play and 10-7-2 in Exploria Stadium in all competitive matches, winning its two most recent home games against Seattle and New York City FC.
Sacramento Republic FC is currently fourth in the USL Western Conference standings with an overall league record of 12-8-7. The Republic sport a league road record of 5-7-3 and lost 3-1 at Louisville City on Saturday, playing a heavily rotated side from what we’re likely to see tonight. The visitors have lost their last three road games but all of that was in league play.
In U.S. Open Cup play, Sacramento has been a different team and quite a resilient one. Entering the competition in the second round, the Republic began the competition with an easy 6-0 win at home over the Portland Timbers U-23s. In the third round, Sacramento hosted Central Valley Fuego SC and eked out a 2-1 home win. The Republic again hosted in the Round of 32 and ousted Phoenix Rising FC, 2-0. Sacramento then dispatched the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 in the Round of 16 — again at home — before going on the road for the quarterfinals.
The Republic knocked off the LA Galaxy 2-1 on the road, overcoming Donovan’s early own goal. Sacramento returned home for its semifinal match against Sporting Kansas City and held the MLS side to a 0-0 draw, advancing to the final on penalties, 5-4, with Lopez scoring the winning penalty.
This will be the Republic’s first match in the competition outside the state of California and just the team’s second away from Sacramento.
Orlando City will need to be wary of Sacramento’s energy and the Lions will have to be attentive on set pieces. The visitors have overcome previous favorites largely by grit, resolve, determination, and (insert whatever other words you like here, but they all mean the same thing). The Republic believe they can win this match and that alone makes Sacramento a dangerous team. Whatever the team has lacked in USL-Championship play this season — and it’s impossible to say how much the USOC run has affected focus against league competition — Mark Briggs has his team playing hard and believing.
The Lions will need to find ways to beat Sacramento’s defense and goalkeeper Danny Vitiello, while snuffing out counter attacks. Orlando will need to handle being favorites in the competition for the first time since maybe the third-round win over Tampa Bay. Scoring first would be a big help for the Lions, because the longer Sacramento stays level (or better) in the match, the more the visitors will build on their belief and the pressure would build on Orlando’s side. Oscar Pareja’s team has dealt well with pressure in recent games but this is a huge moment for both clubs.
“It’s a very good team,” Pareja said about Sacramento in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “We have the utmost respect for them and their coaches. And obviously they are here for a reason. Their journey has not been easy to get to this point. I see a very tough and hard opponent with a very good coach, with very good players. I see a team that is in competition mode all the time and they’re a very, very tough team to play against, and a lot of talent as well.”
Orlando City will be without Alexandre Pato (knee), Joey DeZart (knee), and Jack Lynn (thigh), while Robin Jansson (lower leg) is questionable. Sacramento will not have defender Danny Reynolds (ACL tear).
Mandatory Match Content
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for today’s match.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra.
Attacking Midfielders: Facundo Torres, Junior Urso, Ivan Angulo.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Wilder Cartagena, Andres Perea, Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele.
Sacramento Republic FC (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Danny Vitiello.
Defenders: Lee Desmond, Conor Donovan, Dan Casey.
Midfielders: Damia Viader, Luis Felipe, Matt LaGrassa, Jack Gurr.
Forwards: Rodrigo Lopez, Maalique Foster, Keko.
Bench: Carlos Saldana, Josh Bauer, Emil Cuello, Douglas Martinez, Nick Ross, Duke Lacroix, Luther Archimede.
Ref: Ramy Touchan.
AR1: Kevin Klinger.
AR2: Ian McKay.
4th: Marcos DeOliveira.
5th: Jose Da Silva.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+.
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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