The Supporters Shield race frontrunners FC Dallas are in Carson, CA to challenge LA Galaxy in the second of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinals vying to play New England Revolution in the upcoming Final to bring home the symbolic trophy to the stadium that ‘Uncle Lamar’ built. The last time that happened for Dallas was 1997. The Galaxy won it twice, in 2001 and 2005, but till now, they had not made it to a semifinal, a feat last accomplished in 2006 or final, under Bruce Arena who has a reputation for not prioritizing the nation’s oldest tournament.
This year has been different, much of it due to a deeper bench and a roster mixed with veterans and younger, more resilient players. Yet it hasn’t been a smooth road for LA. Their fourth round 4-1 win against La Maquina sparked controversy in extra time forcing them to be on a mission to prove themselves in Portland with a 1-0 win. The following quarterfinal victory against Seattle at Stub Hub’s Track and Field pitch may have been dramatic and entertaining, but it was won only after Arena’s tactical substitutions injected Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes into the mix in the final minutes of the game, netting 3 goals in 13 minutes. Whether tonight’s bench includes them is debatable given Zardes’ chest strain injury recovery that has left him out of two consecutive MLS matches and limited recovery time for Dos Santos and many of his teammates since LA’s hard-fought draw against the Red Bulls on Sunday.
“It’s very challenging,” Arena declares. “All of the games we’re playing this week are important, and what I’m trying to do is position our team to win every game.”
One advantage LA has is their consistent ability to come from behind to win or draw at home, to eek out the goals when they’re needed the most. Thus they have not lost a single match this season in both MLS going 6-0-5 and in Open Cup games going 2-0. Still this isn’t one they take for granted. “It’s nice to be in all competitions. We know Wednesday is going to be another difficult game, especially after today, we used a lot of energy,” Ashley Cole admitted Sunday in post-game. “So we have a big enough squad to deal with three games in a week. So hopefully, the players that come in can step up and we can hopefully get to our first final.”
Tonight’s challenge from the Western Conference leaders will be a harsh test. Dallas, coming off a win against Real Estelí last Thursday in CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, have had more rest and aren’t dealing with injuries except for Zach Loyd’s ongoing concussion recovery, and with Castillo’s departure, leaves their offense eager for the challenge of taking on more responsibility. They are two wins away from ending a 19-year title drought.
This is Arena’s chance to flex his managerial skills and test his team’s versatility. They’re serious contenders in both title races and have the rare opportunity to make history in both.
The 2016 US Open Cup champion will win a spot in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League and $250,000 in prize money and the runner-up wins $60,000 in prize money.
Match info: Wednesday, 8/10, 9:00PM
Venue: StubHub Center, Carson, CA
Watch on: ESPN2
Key Players to Watch: LA’s Sebastien Lletget and Dallas’s Mauro Diaz