The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is important, though you wouldn’t know it from the Galaxy’s first 45 minutes tonight. But despite giving up a goal in the first half, LA found their footing and rode two rapid-fire tallies from Gyasi Zardes to a victory over USL PRO side Arizona United.
Why does the US Open Cup matter? It’s the oldest tournament in the States, and basically anybody can compete — meaning bragging rights are on the line. But the Galaxy certainly aren’t in it for bragging rights. For LA, the US Open Cup is all about worming their way back into the CONCACAF Champions League. With CONCACAF comes allocation money, and for a team like the Galaxy – who are butting up against the salary cap, a problem that’s already cost them Sean Franklin – the US Open Cup is a roundabout way to earn some breathing room.
Arizona wasn’t going to make it easy for LA. Arizona United is brand new – just 97 days old – and nobody would’ve blamed them if they’d come out timid against a formidable MLS foe. But to their credit, and to the delight of the club’s biggest home crowd yet, Arizona started out on the attack and never let up.
In the 37th minute it paid off. Arizona captain Matt Kassel made the most of a sluggish Galaxy defense, found space, and slotted home a simple cross. It looked effortless, and when the half ended and the home team was still up one – nil, LA fans were right to worry.
“I think in the first half we had quite a few opportunities that we don’t finish. The way our season has been going, you give them one chance and they score. That’s how it’s been going for us and I think in the second half we were able to get two good services and good goals.” —AJ DeLaGarza, LA Galaxy
The Galaxy, however, weren’t about to let a hundred-day-old team win so easily. In the span of two minutes (51’, 53’) Gyasi Zardes stunned the home team’s defense with two headers that snuck past Arizona keeper Evan Newton. Robbie Rogers sent in the first cross, Stefan Ishizaki the second — and just like that, LA was back on top.
“I thank my teammates because my teammates are the ones that got the ball in the box and all I had to do was just put the ball on target, which I did both times just to get the goal.” —Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy
Arizona threw everything they had at the Galaxy for the remaining 40 minutes. At times LA looked ready to buckle — Jaime Penedo is an easy frontrunner for play-of-the-night with his point-blank save. But when the final whistle blew, the result held. LA advances with a 2-1 win.
Next up in the Galaxy’s Open Cup campaign is a familiar foe: the Carolina Railhawks. On Tuesday, LA travels to face a team that’s knocked them out of the last two competitions. If for no other reason than to break the curse, let’s hope this third time is the charm.