My 3 Thoughts on the U.S. Open Cup Final
MLS's Orlando City raises its first major trophy after beating USL's Sacramento Republic 3-0
Orlando City won the U.S. Open Cup final in a 3-0 victory over the Sacramento Republic on Wednesday. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• The biggest move in this game came when Benji Michel subbed on in the second half. Facundo Torres ended up scoring the decisive goals in the 75th and 80th minutes, which deserve plenty of recognition, but it was Orlando coach Óscar Pareja’s move to bring on Michel up front not long before that that made the biggest difference in the game. Suddenly, Orlando had more unpredictability in the attack, and it was Michel who fed Torres for the breakthrough goal (after Iván Angulo’s great work to win the ball in Sacramento’s end) for a tougher-than-it-looked finish after 75 minutes of deadlocked play. Michel coming on for Ercan Kara was huge; Kara was more static and beginning to get into an unnecessary personal battle with Sacramento keeper Danny Vitiello. Pareja recognized that and changed the game. The result: Deserved history for Orlando. Michel’s late goal to finish things off only sealed the deal.
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• Sacramento showed that non-MLS teams have tremendous value. Sacramento had a chance to become the first non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup since the Rochester Raging Rhinos in 1999. And while it didn’t complete the feat, Republic acquitted itself well for the vast majority of the final and throughout the tournament. A first-half scoring chance went tantalizingly just wide, and the fight from Sacramento kept things even for more than 70 minutes. Republic may or may not end up in MLS, but there is a great soccer story happening there nonetheless, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this team back in this position before too long.
• The Open Cup is a sleeping giant. I’m thrilled that the U.S.’s century-plus-long knockout tournament has continued unabated, and that it has been possible in recent years to see every game live. I’m also looking forward to U.S. Soccer finally getting things right and starting a women’s tournament to match the men’s. But there is even more growth to be had in a nation that has spent billions on other prominent knockout tournaments (the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tourneys). We love underdog stories in the U.S., and what could be a better underdog story than a lower-league team like Sacramento making the final? Let’s hope that Turner Sports, the new U.S. Soccer broadcast rights holder, can take things to the next level starting next season as the U.S. Open Cup (men’s and women’s) so surely deserves.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
I’d like to see lower seeds host every game going forward. If you’re not going to give the little guys a chance with pro / rel, at least give them that.
I agree with your entire assessment.