What you need to know

U.S. Open Cup Final:

Orlando City hosts Sacramento Republic FC tonight at 8 p.m. ET in the 2022 US Open Cup Final on ESPN+. In addition to winning the US Open Cup, the winner will earn a spot in the 2023 Concacaf Champions League.

An MLS game tonight too:

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Orlando City versus the plot

Orlando City aren’t the underdog. In most cases, they would be. We’re talking about a team looking for their first trophy. A team that struggled to make the playoffs for years despite the support of an intense and dedicated fan base. They’re looking for their first trophy since joining MLS in 2015 and they’re set to do it in front of a sellout crowd that’s waited for a moment like this for a long time. 

All they have to do is ruin the hopes and dreams of anyone who wants to believe in the ability of a ragtag group of athletes few people have ever heard of to band together and accomplish the near-impossible against heavily favored competition. Orlando has to reject Disney. 

It’s an odd position to be in but it’s also an opportunity. One they’ve earned. All year Orlando have had an ethos of getting the job done without worrying about aesthetics or circumstances. Oscar Pareja has taken this team from that group working together to accomplish the impossible and failing to a team assured in its feeling that it’s too good to fail. They won back-to-back shootouts on their way to the USOC semifinal. Once they got there, they pummeled a New York Red Bulls side that had done the same to them a few months earlier. 

The Lions have taken a season predicated on growth and done just that. They needed to replace multiple key departures coming into 2022. Daryl Dike, Nani and Chris Mueller all left. Ercan Kara, Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo came in. And while it hasn’t been a steady climb to the top, they’ve shown an increasing ability to compete with the league’s best teams. They’re a win away from a US Open Cup title and are on the verge of earning a home playoff spot in the East. They’re well ahead of schedule. 

In the grand scheme of things though, they are generally a David to Goliaths throughout the MLS season. However, for tonight, the Lions have claimed the right to be the big bad. Sacramento Republic FC have done something astonishing here by just making the final. They could be the first second-division team to win the U.S. Open Cup since the 1999 Rochester Rhinos. And they’re a well-drilled and talented group. But the difference in rosters and resources is real. There’s a clear favorite. We know what happens to clear favorites though.

Tonight could be about Orlando’s first trophy and team that pulled itself together in critical moments to make something special happen. But first, they have to overcome the script. That’s a tough task. Orlando and its fans won’t care how it happens though. And who it happens against. As long as the story ends with them looking at their reflection in a shiny new trophy.

Other Things

Nashville SC star Mukhtar named August Player of the Month: After putting together one of the most prolific months in league history, Nashville SC's Hany Mukhtar has been voted MLS Player of the Month for August. With seven goals and five assists, Mukhtar sparked Nashville to a 3W-2L-1D record and became just the fifth player with at least 12 goal contributions in a calendar month — along with Darwin Quintero (12 in July 2018), Diego Serna (13 in June 2001), and Clint Mathis (12 in August 2000). Mukhtar also took home player of the week honors as well.

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Good luck out there. Put something on the line.