After traveling from Southern California to Portland, Ore. and dispatching the Portland Timbers U-23s (PDL) 2-0 in the opening round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, La Maquina has gotten the attention of the American soccer public. They followed up that performance with another 2-0 shutout in Round 2 against the NPSL’s Sacramento Gold.
They were one of eight teams entering the First Round for the first time and are a bit of an unknown.
The Santa Ana, Calif.-based club finished second in the southeast division of United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) after last year’s spring/summer season. Then the club qualified for the US Open Cup with wins in the open division tournament over Strikers FC and a surprising 4-0 defeat of former Open Cup darlings Chula Vista FC in October and November respectively.
Then things got weird.
La Maquina faced San Nicolas in an UPSL quarterfinal playoff match in December. An altercation followed the match involving players, coaches and fans. UPSL reviewed the incident and handed down hefty penalties to both teams: San Nicholas was docked six games and La Maquina was banned for the winter season.
You read that right: La Maquina were ejected from the league for the next session of play.
“It was not an easy decision, especially when you have two good teams at the table,” said UPSL commissioner Yan Skwara. “As a league, we have a zero tolerance for violence and stay firm with that. At the end of the day, I think both teams have learned from this and they will be better citizens both on and off the field.”
Both teams have served their suspensions and La Maquina will return to the league for 2016’s spring/summer session.
The team’s suspension from the league hasn’t stopped them from playing. They have continued to schedule matches and have posted strong wins in a series of friendlies against local clubs, including a recent 6-0 victory against newly-rebranded PDL side LA Laguna.
Unlike most of their counterparts, the team drew another amateur side, fellow UPSL side Los Angeles Wolves, for the Third Round. They are eager to prove themselves in the Open Cup.
The team draws most of its players from the Orange County area, and counts former members of Pateadores among its ranks. One exception is Edwin Borboa, the 33-year old former chivas de Guadalajara forward who last played professionally for Liga de Ascenso club Lobos.
“The guys are really motivated. This is what they have been waiting for,” said coach Edson Martinez. “We have had a lot of games lately, and we should be playing harder teams.”
“If we win Wednesday, anything is possible,” he added.
Martinez y La Maquina will get that chance after this round where they will face the Los Angeles Galaxy. He isn’t worried. He says that his team has something special that the others don’t.
“We’ve played together for a long time. That’s the difference,” he said. “A lot of guys that could be playing on a PDL team want to play for La Maquina. They like playing here.”
Kristen Gehrke also contributed to this report