In its first meeting against the LA Galaxy, Arizona United SC almost came away with the surprise win to move on to the Fifth Round of the US Open Cup but fell short 2-1 as LA was able to capitalize on Arizona’s slow start in the second half.
Both goals came from Gyasi Zardes in about two minutes.
The first half the game went back and forth with a lot of play in the midfield as both teams tried to establish their respective game plans. LA had a total of six shots to Arizona’s three.
The action picked up in the 10th minute as a set piece from Arizona defenseman Scott Morrison from 30 yards out was easily saved by the Galaxy’s Jaime Peñedo. That strike from Arizona seemed to give L.A. the shot in the arm they needed as they went on to pepper Arizona goalkeeper Evan Newton, starting with a shot from inside the box from forward Stefan Ishizaki in the 17th minute.
The Galaxy’s Ishizaki sent a cross to forward Rob Friend seven minutes later that Friend put in the back of the net, but it was called back for offside. Shortly after that close call, Arizona was awarded a corner kick that Morrison crossed to forward Bradlee Baladez that went over the bar and just out of reach of Peñedo.
Arizona came close but so was L.A., which started pushing and got an opportunity with Zardes fading into the box and getting a shot off that went wide in the 32nd minute.
Both teams seemed to be on the brink of breaking through and just four minutes later, Arizona scored on a beautiful cross from forward Kadeem Dacres that went to forward Matt Kassel for the goal and the lead going into the half.
Kassel said he was pleased with the effort the team put forth against a tough team like the Galaxy.
“It’s exciting, it’s not what we wanted, we wanted to win the game but it’s something that we can hold our heads high about,” he said.
With the momentum clearly on Arizona’s side, L.A. needed to come out in attack mode and that’s exactly what Zardes did from the first whistle of the second half, attacking the box and nearly getting one past Newton in the first minute of the second half.
It wouldn’t take long for L.A. to get the equalizer as Zardes once again set himself up in the box and received a beautiful cross from defenseman Robbie Rogers that he easily headed past Newton for the 1-1 score in the 51st minute as the 4,000 fans at Peoria Sports Complex fell silent.
Two minutes later, Zardes put another header past Newton, this time the cross came from Ishizaki in the 53rd.
Zardes said [L.A. manager Bruce] Arena told the team at halftime that the goals would come and to be patient and that’s the mentality they took heading into the second half.
“The main goal in the second half was to put the shots on target, and that’s what I did.” Zardes said. “I had opportunities in the first half that were close and I wanted to make sure these were on target.”
Zardes — who was named man of the match — was virtually left alone on the back-to-back goals, as he was able to drift away from the defense.
The slow start by Arizona United in the second half was too much to overcome, as L.A. was able to stop the few opportunities that Arizona had in the second half. The closest Arizona got to getting their own equalizer came in the 79th and 87th as forward Jon Okafor had two point-blank shots that were saved by Peñedo, dashing the hopes of the new USL franchise and knocking them out of the US Open Cup.
With the win the Galaxy move on to face the Carolina RailHawks in North Carolina in the Fifth Round of the US Open Cup Round.
MATCH REPLAY: LA GALAXY AT ARIZONA UNITED