Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy struggled to overcome a man disadvantage in the fourth round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday night against a determined and stubborn amateur side, La Máquina. And what should’ve been an exercise for players who aren’t getting many first team minutes, turned into a battle to stay alive in America’s oldest continuous soccer tournament.
#LAGalaxy XI: Diop; Sorto, DLG, Leonardo, Romney; Mendiola, Garcia, Larentowicz, Boateng; Villarreal, Gordon pic.twitter.com/xafLzEgWPD
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) June 15, 2016
All started well for the mostly reserve side, LA Galaxy. All players, while senior team members, have all received limited minutes since the year started. The one exception is probably AJ DeLaGarza and possibly Emmanuel Boateng who’ve both featured a number of times earlier in the season. (Note: Jack McBean and Alejandro Covarrubias were signed to the LA Galaxy from LA Galaxy II for this game only)
It was Jose Villarreal, the LA Galaxy II regular, who opened the scoring in the 15th minute of play. Villarreal was the recipient of a good back-post cross from Raul Mendiola that was simply chested across the goal line. The play throughout the game would be dominated by the LA Galaxy, but it would take a much different turn just two minutes after the Galaxy’s goal.
Rafael Garcia went for a loose ball with two feet and studs showing, and made contact with La Máquina’s Rosendo Castro and was promptly shown a red card. It was a ridiculously stupid challenge by Garcia, who’s a hard nosed player, and it turned this game on it’s head. An amateur team playing with eleven players will have a much better chance of holding off a pro team with ten players.
“We played, in regulation, 73 minutes with 10 players and then add another 30 onto it. That’s not a smart way to play any game. We certainly had our chances to score more than one goal in 90 minutes, and you know, we sent it into extra-time. Clearly we were going to get a goal at some point to win this game, but we sure took our time.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach
Less than 15 minutes from the red card, a costly defensive mistake from AJ DeLaGarza would see La Máquina’s Edwin Barboa toe poke a misplayed back pass behind Clement Diop and not the back of the net.
The score would remain 1-1 throughout the rest of regular time and it was in the 96th minute (the first of two 15 minute extra time periods) that one of the strangest plays you’ve ever seen took place. Jose Villarreal was tearing through the La Máquina defense and was roughly taken down just inches from the penalty box. The referee blew for the foul and pointed to a spot just outside the box. With Villarreal still down on the ground and nearly every La Máquina player inside the box, 65-minute-substitite Baggio Husidic placed the ball down where the referee instructed and then calmly played a ball over to a wide open Dave Romney. Romney trapped the ball fired it past the goal keeper for the go ahead goal.
Obviously La Máquina were irate with the referees decision to allow play to continue. Especially as Jose Villarreal lay on the ground being stretched out by another LA Galaxy player. But no where in the replay does any player from the LA Galaxy ask for the customary 10 yards, and besides Villarreal, there was no reason to stop the play. It broke no laws of the game. Whether or not the referee should’ve stopped the play is entirely up to him.
This video gives the gory details of @LAGalaxy's @opencup goal https://t.co/57UlXWxFnq
— Bob Williams (@WilliamsBob75) June 15, 2016
However, the optics of the play are something entirely different. Here you have a 5-time MLS Cup Winner who just “cheated” a hard working amateur team out of their right to play. Except that if you play by that narrative you completely discount the fact that La Máquina had the LA Galaxy on the mat and were making them work way harder than they should have had to. That they were pushing the MLS juggernaut to the breaking and that they had simply run out of gas in stoppage time. By shouting a perceived slight to the game, you basically say that La Máquina isn’t smart enough to know to defend that set piece or know that you play until the whistle is blown. And that isn’t the case. This amateur team was all the LA Galaxy could handle and more and they deserve that respect.
La Máquina executed their game plan perfectly. They allowed the Galaxy to have possession and they absorbed pressure. Several key saves from their goalkeeper kept them in the game and they fought tooth and nail for that opportunity.
“I give them (La Máquina) a lot of credit even if they weren’t the best technically sometimes but their effort was outstanding.” Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy Midfielder
Is the goal the Galaxy scored unsportsmanlike? If it is it falls in the same realm of every argument soccer fans have over when to stop play and when to play-on, sure, you could make that argument. But for everyone making that argument everyone else is make the case for playing until the referee stops you. In this case, it was an LA Galaxy player down in the box and they took advantage of momentary lapse in alertness from their counterparts. Imagine the backlash if it was a La Máquina player down in the box who was injured and the Galaxy scored? Pandemonium!
It was an alert and extremely intelligent play. And if the amateur team in this scenario would’ve pulled it off, there would be much more praise than anger over any “fair play” rule.
But that didn’t stop ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption from weighing in on what they termed “bush league” and “unsportsmanlike.”
PTI just sounded off on @LAGalaxy's winner. Kornheiser: "Bush league." Wilbon: "Unsportsmanlike. … Insane. Should have been disallowed."
— Scott French (@ScottJFrench) June 15, 2016
And NBC Sports even weighed in on the goal with the title of “L.A. Galaxy avoid Cupset with hugely unsportsmanlike goal to beat La Máquina”
The LA Galaxy, for their part, went on to score twice more in extra time. A brace from Sebastian Lletget finished off La Máquina. But it’s a perfectly reasonable argument to say that the controversial goal in the 96th minute was the catalyst for those other goals. So most of this game hinges on how one interprets that play.
Announced the day after the match, La Máquina filed an appeal to the US Open Cup. Apparently hoping that the committee will force a replay of the game. Which, in all honesty, would be the best thing to ever happen to the US Open Cup in Los Angeles. Because who wouldn’t want to be at that game? Regardless of “Laws” of the game, I’m firmly behind a replay.
La Maquina have Officially protested U.S. Open Cup match vs LA Galaxy with US Soccer .
— upslsoccer (@upslsoccer) June 15, 2016
But in reality, hanging any sort of hope on a thinly supported appeal is probably not the best course of action.
Without the red card early in this game I wouldn’t have given La Máquina much of a chance. And through the first 16 minutes that proved out. But the fight they showed on the field, and the determination they played while keeping the LA Galaxy out of their goal was exactly why the US Open Cup should be something that takes off in United States. Underdogs and improbable results are the hallmark of cup competitions across the globe, so it makes perfect sense that what we saw on Tuesday night leaves us with more question marks than any concrete answers.
The LA Galaxy will return to MLS League play on Saturday, June 18th as they will take on Toronto FC at newly renovated BMO field in Toronto. The results of La Máquina’s appeal and the draw for the 5th round of the US Open Cup have not been released yet.
- LA – Jose Villarreal (Assisted by Raul Mendiola) 15’
- LMFC – Edwin Borboa 28’
- LA – Dave Romney (Assisted by Baggio Husidic) 96’
- LA – Sebastian Lletget (penalty) 105’
- LA – Sebastian Lletget (Assisted by Oscar Sorto) 115’
- LA – Rafael Garcia (ejection) 17’
- LMFC – Jorge Pineda (caution) 23’
- LMFC – Luis Sosa (caution) 67’
- LA – A.J. DeLaGarza (caution) 78’
- LA – Jack McBean (caution) 88’
- LMFC – Edgar Orozco (caution) 88’
- LMFC – Rolando Pinedo (caution) 90’