Cesar Araujo celebrates his first goal of the night. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

The Red Bulls’ drought to win the Lamar Hunt Open Cup continued on Wednesday night as they went down to a 5-1 semifinal drubbing by Orlando City SC at a rainy Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

The visitors saw a one-goal lead dissipate as they allowed the Lions to score three times during a 17-minute on either side of halftime.

Cesar Araujo scored his first two goals as a professional, the equalizer and an insurance tally as Orlando bounced the Red Bulls from the annual competition.

It was the first time this season that the Red Bulls, who allowed four second-half goals, conceded five goals in a match across all competitions.

New York has never won the Open Cup, although it has reached the final twice – in 2003 and 2017.

Now, the Red Bulls will concern themselves on securing an postseason berth and finding away to end another drought and win the MLS Cup. They never have won that competition as well.

Orlando will host the winner of Wednesday night’s semifinal between Sacramento Republic SC and Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 5.

It was crazy first half.

After both teams could not find the net in the opening 45 minutes, they traded goals in stoppage time.

The Red Bulls struck first, a minute into added time.

Cristian Casseres, Jr. stopped a Lions attack and started a quick counterattack with a long ball down the right flank to Patryk Klimala. He then sent a hard cross to Lewis Morgan on the left side of the penalty area. Morgan then smashed the ball home from yards past goalkeeper Pedro Gallese for a 1-0 lead.

A one-goal advantage that was short-lived.

Only three minutes later, the hosts equalized off a corner kick sequence. Mauricio Pereyra lofted the ball into the area and Antonio ripped a shot off the left post. The rebound came to César Araujo, who slotted it between goalkeeper Carlos Coronel’s legs for a 1-1 halftime deadlock. Seconds later, the half was called.

It was a frustrating opening 45 minutes for the visitors. Klimala hit the woodwork twice – the crossbar and left post – in the opening 27 minutes, and Luquinhas missed three decent opportunities, including one when he was 1 v 1 with the keeper in the 39 minute that he hit wide right.

As the teams lined up for the second half, rain started to fall at Exploria.

Pereyra had the first and final words of Orlando’s go-ahead goal in the 47th minute. He lofted a long pass to Alexadre Pato on the left flank. He then sent a short pass to Joao Moutinho, who crossed the ball to a charging Pereyra, who slotted the ball home from the middle of the box for a 2-1 margin.

Orlando padded its lead with two more goals.

In the 62nd minute, Araujo volleyed home a 12-yard off a Junior Urso header following a corner kick for a 3-1 advantage.

The Red Bulls conceded a fourth goal in the 75th minute as Facundo Torres fired home a 12-yard shot from the left side of the penalty area. The visitors claimed Torres was offside. Since there was no VAR for the match, referee Victor Rivas had to talk to assistant referee Ben Pilgrim and the goal stood for a commanding three-goal advantage. Coronel was socked with a yellow card for dissent.

The onslaught continued in the 83rd minute as Benji Michel rifled home a Torres left-wing cross to the near post for a 5-1 lead.