The city of Los Angeles has another soccer rivalry in town and it commenced Tuesday evening at the Norco College Soccer Complex. The Los Angeles Blues of the USL-Pro and the Hollywood United Hitmen of the NPSL battled to advance in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with the Blues coming away with a 3-1 victory on the strength of two goals by Mehrshad Momeni.
The game began with Hollywood United pressing on the experienced backline of the Blues. They were able to find space as Hitmen forward Jose Miranda was fed a beautiful ball that led to a one-on-one chance with Blues keeper Oscar Dautt. Mesa struck his shot and hit the bottom of the crossbar, but the ball didn’t completely cross the goal line and bounced away to keep the score locked at 0-0.
Miranda had another chance five minutes later when he headed a cross just outside the goal post. As United’s offensive pressure began to wane Blues’ defender Leonard Griffin went to the ground for a tackle and took out a United player. The foul was called and Griffin was issued a straight red card at the 19th minute of play which left the Blues down a man for the rest of the game.
Down a man the Blues actually stepped up their offensive pressure. Momeni forced United goalkeeper Raul Calderon to make a fingertip save. Soon after though Momeni was assisted by former Galaxy player Josh Tudela on a goal that ripped through to the back of the net to put the Blues up 1-0. The Blues would take that lead into halftime into what was proving to be a physical game.
“We talked about giving this team the respect they deserve, but not to fear them,” said defender Michael Randolph. “We started off a little slow… But we stepped in there and fought for each other.”
The second half began with the Blues in a defensive formation by dropping down to one forward. Just as Hollywood United was beginning to put pressure on the Blues Momeni came through again around the 70th minute. Momeni was able to beat Calderon for his second goal of the day to put his team up 2-0.
However, United would not go away. Miranda, possibly looking to atone for the earlier missed opportunities, was able to put a header into the back of the net around the 80th minute to bring the Hitmen to within a goal. Jesus Flores made a great run just three minutes later and he had a tremendous opportunity to knot the game at 2-2, but he was stifled by Dautt who looked to preserve the victory for LA.
Unfortunately the physicality of the game got a little out of hand as a near melee ensued after United defender Carlos Morales slide tackled a Blues player and the players protested for a red card. Morales was given a red card and sent off while there was a heated argument between both teams. It eventually turned into a brief scuffle where punches were thrown, but only two yellow cards were given after the situation. Tudela, the Blues captain, and United player Rene Corona were both shown their second yellow cards of the day to drop each team to nine players on the field.
As both teams were down Hollywood United pressed for an equalizer. The goalie was up for a corner kick during stoppage time and as it was cleared out Blues midfielder Jhonny Bravo carried the ball up the field and scored a 40 yard shot with an open net to close the game’s scoring at 3-1.
After the game the Blues were still brimming with confidence. Mehrshad, through an interpreter, thanked his teammates and hoped that they could make a run. Randolph also felt confident as he looked forward to their second round matchup.
The Blues will travel to face the Ventura County Fusion in the second round of the US Open Cup.
Hollywood United (NPSL)