LA Football Club Shuts Out Real Salt Lake

First Game at US Open

It doesn't really matter whether Los Angeles Football Club is competing in Major League Soccer or a national tournament this season. They are winning with confidence and with a certain panache. Tuesday night's 3-0 shutout victory at Real Salt Lake, the 2019 U.S. Open Cup matchup was simply a continuation of their dominating trend this season.

LAFC's next Open Cup opponent is likely to be a local barn-burner. They will play next Thursday against the winner of this week's L.A. Galaxy / Orange County FC matchup. This precursor comes at a time when LAFC has leaped over the 3-time MLS champion Galaxy as the city's most popular team in a less than two seasons. LAFC is scheduled to play the Galaxy twice in MLS competition this July and August.

The first non-league match of the season was a priority for LAFC as they fielded eight of eleven regular starters, including a complete front line of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Christian Ramirez. Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, defender Walker Zimmerman and goalkeeper Tyler Miller, all absent due to national team duties, were replaced by Lee Nguyen, Danilo and Pablo Sisniega respectively.

"We always talk about how Open Cup is important and we were disappointed to lose to penalties in the Semis (last year)," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "And everybody was excited to get it started this year. With the schedule in June it allowed us to play pretty close to our regular lineup. But it was also good to get some other guys in."

True to form Carlos Vela opened the scoring in the 8th minute against Real Salt Lake. Vela took a crisp 30-yard pass from Eduard Atuesta, dribbled to just inside the penalty box and punched his classic left-footed bender inside the far left post past diving Real goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Vela currently leads the MLS in scoring with 16 goals and 10 assists near the midway point of the season.

Bradley: "Every game Carlos makes a difference. There's not one player, opponent that doesn't have respect for what he's about. He's playing at such a high level. He's sets a perfect example for his teammates every game. He's got a personality. He smiles... We're really lucky that he's our leader."

Nguyen gave LAFC a 2-0 lead with a low strike between Real defender Donny Toia and Rimando, set up by midfielder Latif Blessing's slot pass in the 64th minute. Nguyen said Bradley's advice at halftime was the difference in the second half: "There are spaces to play. You have to be composed and move the ball quicker from the back to the midfield."

"There's angles and gaps to play through. We weren't able to find it as much in the first half. But in the second half we did and it opened up and it was able to give us chances. And then from there it was just closing out the game."

Bradley inserted Adama "Dio" Diomande and Rodolfo "Fito" Zelaya late in the match. The move paid off with a set-piece goal in the final minute of stoppage time. Fito nailed a low free kick from 30 yards out, banging it off the left post. Dio swept in and easily put the rebound into an empty net to close the curtain and move LAFC into the Round of 16.

Sisniega registered a shutout in his first MLS start at goalkeeper. "Really happy for Pablo Sisniega, makes one really big save at 1-0," said Bradley. "That's great for his confidence. He works really hard and all his teammates appreciate him... Good for Lee getting a start and getting a goal and then at the end Fito comes in and cracks a free kick that leads to the third goal."

Nguyen: "We set forth the goal at the beginning of the season. This is a club that we want to win every game. We want to win trophies so Open Cup is a chance to put a trophy in the cabinet. That's what we're aiming for."

The 3252 Black and Gold supporters also made an impact according to Bradley: "Understand that it's really important to our fans. And you can tell that because we have traveling fans tonight that are cheering for us all game."

"Knowing that they're as committed as they are and cheering every game, then certainly it's the responsibility on all of us that we make sure that we treat the competition with real respect.


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