By Luis Bueno – CARSON, CA (Jul 21, 2016) US Soccer Players – The US Open Cup is an odd one. It’s history doesn’t carry enough prestige to make it a coveted tournament. Some MLS teams don’t seem bothered at all, even in the later rounds. Adding the trophy is nice. Every coach and player would say that. But it’s not crucial.
That’s the case with the LA Galaxy under coach Bruce Arena. In seven tries under Arena, the Galaxy hasn’t gotten past the quarterfinals. That changed on the eighth try.
On Wednesday at StubHub Center, the Galaxy finally broke through. It wasn’t easy or straightforward. Twice, LA came back. They eventually pulled away with a 4-2 win over Seattle. Giving the quarterfinal all the importance the club believed it deserved, the Galaxy used StubHub Center’s Track and Field Stadium for the game.
The Galaxy prides itself on championships, and rightly so. No other club can match the Galaxy’s five MLS Cups. DC United comes closest with four. DC United seem as close to winning MLS Cup as now-defunct Chivas USA, so that record seems safe. The Galaxy has also made several Champions League runs, reaching the semifinal once in Arena’s tenure.
Somehow, the Open Cup has eluded his team. Regardless, Arena insisted following Wednesday’s win that the Open Cup is a goal.
“Anyone thinks that we haven’t tried to (advance) – we haven’t been able to do it, but not because it wasn’t important,” Arena told reporters after the match. “And it’s still important. So the next game, wherever that is, will be a tough game and we’ll be ready to go.”
The Open Cup indeed is important in Galaxy lore. The first trophy the club won was an Open Cup title. After losing the MLS Cup final in 1996, 1999 and 2001, the Galaxy finally got a trophy. The 2001 Open Cup, beating New England 2-1. They’d lost the MLS Cup to San Jose by that same score six days earlier.
The Galaxy also has accomplished the rare double. They won the Open Cup and MLS Cup in 2005. Arena’s DC United did the same in the league’s first season. The Chicago Fire matched it in their expansion season in 1998.
Still, we’re right back to what that history really means. For both teams on Wednesday at the track stadium, it meant less than a first-choice lineup. Arena and his counterpart Sigi Schmid hit the bench. LA started Clement Diop, Rafael Garcia, and Sebastian Lletget. Arena did go first choice with his subs. He sent on Gyasi Zardes and Gio dos Santos with 16 minutes left and Seattle ahead 2-1.
Dos Santos scored three minutes later. Zardes set up Lletget for goals in the 85th and 88th minutes. Even though the Galaxy has a key Western Conference clash at Portland on Saturday afternoon, Arena felt it necessary.
“You roll the dice sometimes,” he said. “And the other part you have to think about is that you might be playing 120 minutes and you have to be careful. But obviously we injected those players in the game to get a goal. Dos Santos did a hell of a job and Gyasi, as well.”
Up next is the Open Cup semifinal against FC Dallas on August 10. A win and the Galaxy would be one step closer to claiming the third Open Cup title in club history as well as a spot in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League.
First things first though.
“We are not there yet, we are only at the semifinals,” Galaxy forward Alan Gordon said. “This team is competitive, it has a lot of winners on it throughout and so I think we are going to do well. We have two more games, we’re on a nice little streak and it’s nice to keep it going in the Cup and looking forward to that semifinal.”
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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