Short-handed LAFC cruise past Real Salt Lake in U.S. Open Cup match

Lee Nguyen
LOS ANGELES, CA — MARCH 10: Lee Nguyen #24 of Los Angeles FC takes a free kick during Los Angeles FC's MLS match against Portland Timbers at the Banc of California Stadium on March 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles FC won the match 4-1 (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images).

Los Angeles, California (June 11, 2019) — Freight train.

That’s the best way to describe Los Angeles FC and their current run of form. LAFC began the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a tough matchup against Real Salt Lake. Also, they were down several key players. However, that didn’t seem to matter much for the visitors.

Short-handed LAFC cruise past Real Salt Lake in U.S. Open Cup match

Things got off to a perfect start for the Black and Gold. Eduard Atuesta did what he has come to do best: feed a beautiful ball to Carlos Vela, who put it on his left and curled in the first goal in the 8th minute. Real Salt Lake refused to give up, doubling down on the physical play and finding open space to attack. LAFC striker Christian Ramirez had a couple good looks to extend the lead before halftime. However, he continued to struggle in front of goal.

The second half started much as expected, with Real Salt Lake coming out ferociously. Not only were Real Salt Lake physical, but they found a couple of opportunities that were denied by Pablo Sisniega. Just as it looked as if Real Salt Lake would bring things level, Latif Blessing found Lee Nguyen. Controlling the ball in stride, Nguyen calmly put it past Nick Rimando in the 64th minute for the second goal of the night.

Meanwhile, LAFC fans got to see a brief debut from new signing, Rodolfo “Fito” Zelaya. The striker nearly scored a debut goal with a last minute free kick, striking the bar, missing by inches. However, Diomande was there to control the rebound and found the back of the net for the third and final goal of the evening.

Like they never left

It’s one thing for a team to have the “next man up” mentality, but it is totally different to look this good while doing it. The best compliment you could give those who stepped in tonight, is that this team looked as it had all season: dominant. Nguyen did a fabulous job filling in for Mark-Anthony Kaye, even getting on the scoresheet. Danilo Silva and Tristan Blackmon did more than hold their own in defense, providing little space for RSL to create. Then there was goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega, who played perhaps the best of those having to step up and fill in.

Pablo Sisniega

When you play as well as he did, you get your own headline and paragraph. Having the toughest job of the “replacements,” Pablo seized his chance. With starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller away for international duty, Sisniega brought a level of tranquility in goal. Never once did it seem like the moment was too big or too much for him. Making several big saves — including a highlight stop in the second half — Sisniega showed just how deep this defense goes. A match like he had will only boost his confidence and help him settle in that much more.

Freight train approaching

Even with key players gone, going on road in the middle of the week and facing a team ready to eliminate them again, LAFC looked a class above. There is something special happening with this team. They know who they are, how they play and what it takes, from everyone, to achieve the goals they’ve set out. This is a club on a mission to fill up their trophy cabinet. Tonight was a great first step.

Look Ahead

LAFC will find out Thursday who they play next in the U.S. Open Cup. With the chance at an early LA Clasico matchup against the Galaxy, all eyes will be on the draw. Whoever is up next will have their work cut out for them. LAFC are a team with a clear mission in mind: trophies.

 

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