ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the day Orlando City raised its 2022 U.S. Open Cup championship banner at Exploria Stadium, Facundo Torres had a banner day of his own.
The winger picked up right where he left off last season, scoring on a penalty kick in the 56th minute to lead the Lions to a season-opening 1-0 shutout victory over New York Red Bulls on Saturday in front of a raucous, purple-clad home crowd of 24,088.
The victory stretched Orlando's unbeaten streak in openers to nine matches with the club having yet to lose a contest to start a season since joining Major League Soccer in 2015.
"I think the best part of the game for us was that we covered that intensity at the time and our hearts were great today," Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja said. "It was a very deserving three points. We are happy and pleased with the heart and obviously the first game at home opening in front of our fans and getting three points against such a good rival is very valuable."
After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, a handball in the penalty area by Sean Nealis led to Torres' opportunity from the spot in the second half. He didn't flinch, easily converting the PK past a lurching Carlos Coronel for career goal No. 10 since signing with the Lions from Penarol last January.
“We talked about and trained (for) penalties (Friday), and today I just felt like I had a ton of confidence," said Torres, who celebrated the strike with a group selfie with his teammates. "So I told that to my teammates, and thankfully, they agreed and let me take a penalty kick. And thankfully, I scored.”
Highlight | Facundo Torres scores from the spot against New York Red Bulls
Pedro Gallese was strong in net, turning aside four shots -- including a great chance by New York's Cristian Casseres Jr. in the 88th minute -- while helping the Lions stave off a late rush with eight additional minutes in stoppage time.
Gallese is yet to concede a goal on opening weekend in his Orlando City tenure. He previously helped the Lions secure a pair of scoreless draws in 2020 and 2021, while tallying a pair of saves a year ago in the club's 2-0 win over CF Montréal.
"I think he's incredible, and we're very pleased to have him for sure," Pareja said of Gallese, who returned to the Lions in the offseason on a new two-year contract.
"We're happy to have Pedro back and he knows that he's important piece of this team.”
Before the match, Orlando City celebrated last fall's Open Cup title one more time, commemorating its first MLS-era trophy by lifting a banner above "The Wall" supporter section. The club also added two USL Championship banners from its titles in 2011 and 2013.
“When the team is getting good results, the fans are able to feel that and they'll be there with you every step of the way," Torres said. "At the beginning of the game, it was just a beautiful sight with the [U.S. Open Cup] banner ceremony and the tifo that supporters’ section put together.
"It was fantastic and so we'll just keep trying to get good results for the fans and bring this atmosphere again.”
Orlando City returns home to Exploria Stadium to host FC Cincinnati next Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. (MLS Season Pass on Apple TV; 96.9 The Game; Acción 97.9). Cincinnati earned three points in its opener, topping Houston Dynamo 2-1 on Saturday.