Head coach Eric Wynalda and his LA Wolves FC got off on the right foot in the club’s opening game of the 2017 US Open Cup with a 4-2 win over the San Diego Zest of the PDL.
With the win, the Wolves advance to the Second Round of the second year in a row and will host San Diego area side Chula Vista FC on May 17.
The Wolves hosted the game at Azusa Pacific University and they were tested early on, with San Diego opting for a rapid, vertical game often times getting their long lobs past defenders. San Diego looked sharper, and the more disciplined unit, in the first 15 minutes, keeping LA Wolves on their heels.
But the Wolves gradually took control and possession and began to generate offense more fluidly, stringing successful passes together, while the Zest could not.
LA’s first goal came in the 37th minute from an attack on the left flank that started with the keeper passing to his left back, who found Miguel Sánchez along the line and connected with him on a long pass. Sánchez then turned, beat his defender and then sent in a long cross to assist Charlie Pitts who scored to make it 1-0 going into halftime.
Wynalda subbed on Pablo Cruz to start the second half due to an injury and his club continued to settle in. The Wolves were taking possession and winning tackles in the midfield, easily dispossessing the Zest.
“We committed one man forward. We had to make an adjustment but Pablo Cruz is the kind of guy you can see,” said Wylanda about his second half sub. “He just possesses beautiful talent, and so when he plays with Paolo Cardozo it’s hard for anybody to figure out how you’re going to defend against those guys.”
LA’s second goal came on a corner kick to the right far post that Miguel Sánchez knocked in during the 61st minute.
The Wolves’ third goal came four minutes later on a flashy combination play and assist between Paolo Cardozo to Pablo Cruz. At this point, LA were commanding the midfield and final third, combining to knock the ball around fluidly.
San Diego got a goal back in the 70th minute from Joseph Fortini, but the Wolves answered back three minutes later to score their fourth on a combination play between Charlie Pitts and Paolo Cardozo. The goal looked to have been scored by Cardozo, but could have been an own goal.
Coach Wynalda attributed a second goal to Pitts, but after match Chris said, “He (Cardozo) put in a cross and I was right there at the ball but the defender got a touch before I did.”
Regardless of how it happened, the goal was generated by that fluid, clever, one-two passing in the box shown by LA.
San Diego got a second goal on a PK caused by a foul by the Wolves keeper near the end of the match. Patrick McGrath stepped to the spot and trimmed the Wolves lead to 4-2, but they would get no closer.
After the game coach Wynalda described the slow start to the game.
“The opening minutes were a little tricky, we saw some nerves on our side,” said Wynalda. “It was important to get this game under our belt so we could really focus on playing what I think these guys are capable of. Those opening minutes were not what we expected.”