LA Football Club Faces San Jose Earthquakes
June 20, 2019
The U.S. Open Cup is the longest running soccer competition in the nation. The Cup has now managed to extend the streak to 106 consecutive years and counting. For the 1914 inaugural title, Brooklyn Field Club beat Brooklyn Celtic, 2-1, before an estimated crowd of 10,000 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Today, 2nd-year MLS phenom Los Angeles Football Club is squarely focused on the 2019 Open crown. Last August, LAFC's inaugural quest lasted four rounds before being derailed in a semifinal overtime shootout loss to Houston Dynamo, 3(7) – 3(6). The following month, the Dynamo shutout Philadelphia Union, 3-0, capturing its first-ever U.S. Open Cup title.
Head coach Bob Bradley, following that loss: "When you try to make sure that guys understand that the Cup it's important. We're going to compete and we are going to try to win. This group went after it in all the right ways. And this time it didn't happen."
He followed up after last Tuesday's 3-0 Round 4 shutout over Real Salt: "Cup matches are a little different kind of challenge that come in the middle of the season. If you lay it out there the right way with the players and everybody's on board, it's something that can make a team better."
The victory over RSL gave LAFC a 4-1 lifetime record in Cup play. They host the San Jose Earthquakes at the Banc of California Stadium this Thursday. The Round of 16 winner will face the winner of the L.A. Galaxy/Portland Timbers, July 10. Adding intrigue to a potential LAFC Open Cup matchup with the Galaxy: an MLS regular season date between the two L.A rivals at Dignity Health sports Park, July 19, in Carson.
With starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller not available for the next month or so due to U.S. National team duties, Pablo Sisniega stepped in admirably with a clean sheet in his very first MLS start against Real Salt Lake. LAFC acquired the 23-year old before this season began from Spanish club Real Sociedad, February 18.
"I'm very happy. I'm just happy that it went well, that I can help the team win. I'd been waiting a long time for this moment so I was really excited to get it," said Sisniega after the RSL win. "I'm happy it went well. I don't care how we win, as long as we win."
The revitalized San Jose Earthquakes almost certainly will pose a greater threat than the MLS meeting between the Western Conference foes earlier this season. The Black and Gold stomped the Quakes, 5-0, at Avaya Stadium, March 30. Current league MVP frontrunner Carlos Vela led the onslaught with a hat-trick and one assist while LAFC outshot San Jose, 20-6.
Under first-year head coach Matias Almeyda the Quakes have rebounded from a poor start to win four, lose one and tie four in MLS action since April 20. Yet it was a struggle in their last contest, a 4-3 Open Cup win against Sacramento Republic of the USL. The match was tied 2-2 through 78 minutes until midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili scored two goals in 13 minutes. The second one in stoppage time gave San Jose the much-needed insurance goal.
Bradley expects disruption: "We know that there are going to be teams that try to knock us out of our rhythm. And the responsibility is always on us to handle that. Not let it get in the way and keep trying to get control. Connect passes and play the way we like to play."
"We try to create some fluidity. We try to have a game where the ball is moving, where the game moves, and when we lose it where we react fast. We try to close down and win balls with interceptions and not just make fouls."