ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) — Another night of football lent itself to another night of magic at Exploria Stadium. Orlando City outlasted the resilient Sacramento Republic in the first half to turn the tide in the final 45 minutes. Facundo Torres marked the difference on the night with his brace in front of goal followed by an assist to Benji Michel for the final strike. In the end, it was a marvelous evening filled with triumphs, tribulations, and every other emotion that comes with a Cup Final in front of a sold-out crowd.
One for the History Books
The atmosphere at Exploria Stadium during the final was unlike any other game this season. From Spygate allegations swirling in the ether of the conversation to packed-out lines and parking lots across town — the anticipation for soccer glory was palpable throughout the city. Orlando fielded a competitive starting XI against an opponent most pundits would deem less than on paper. Despite their shortcomings, Sacramento Republic brought the game to Orlando City early thanks to some smart counterattacking from Maalique Foster.
With possession remaining choppy in the first 45 minutes it was hard to establish offense for either side. Orlando City continued to utilize crosses in their attack with Ivan Angulo and Ruan regularly finding open space on the wing. As much as they knocked, the Lions were unable to break the deadlock as they were still missing a creative spark.
The second half was a much different story. Ercan Kara was substituted off for Benji Michel at the 60th minute and the offensive makeup of Orlando changed drastically. Suddenly, their attacking disposition became much more venomous. The hometown hero Michel found open spaces and put Sacramento’s defense on tilt.
Ivan Angulo picked off Dan Casey in the backline and found the pass to Benji in the box. Lurking in the midst, Facundo Torres signaled that he was open directly in front of the goal. What occurred next will go down as one of the greatest moments in Orlando City sports history. Facundo Torres scored the first goal of the evening in Orlando City’s 3-0 Cup triumph.
Orlando has Arrived
For the final 15 minutes of play, Orlando City dominated possession. Looking for a goal with each touch of the ball in a counter-attack. Sacramento lamentably started to crumble under the pressure. Orlando’s 12th man, the infamous Purple Wall, kept a raucous pace all night long that eventually boiled over into elation for the team and fans alike. Facundo Torres doubled up on his goal with a penalty kick in the 80th minute. In the stoppage time minutes of extra play, Torres kept the pressure and found Benji Michel in open space for the 3-0 finish.
The celebrations that followed vindicated years of hard work for Oscar Pareja, Luiz Muzzi, Ricardo Moreira, and the rest of the Orlando City technical staff that make the organization so special. In the post-match presser, OCSC team-captain Mauricio Pereyra pointed to Head Coach Oscar Pareja when he entered the room and said: “This is the guy. This is Orlando because of him.”
But a humble man like Oscar Pareja would never take such a compliment without sharing the praise. Upon relaying his thoughts on the night he shared the glory of this title with everyone surrounding the team, including the media, in a heartfelt message of gratitude for all that Orlando City has endured as a team. Pareja also had kind words for the impact players of the night (like Facundo and Benji) who played a role in turning the tide:
“I was very content with the production that Facu has given us. Especially this last month and a half when we needed him the most. I think those players that change the game and put the team on their shoulders are difficult to find. In Facu we found that already. With regards to Benji, he’s a great example for the community. It was fantastic to see him celebrating the cup with his family. This is Orlando.”— Oscar Pareja on the success of Orlando City starlets Facundo Torres and hometown product Benji Michel
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