La Maquina of Southern California have slowly become less of an underdog, and more of a team filled with experience and expectations when it comes to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The 2014-15 United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) champions are making an impressive third straight appearance in the US Open Cup proper rounds, having qualified through the US Soccer Federation’s new open division qualifying tournament in every year since the format came into existence in 2015.
The club is now somewhat well known to American soccer enthusiasts after their impressive run in the 2016 tournament, when they famously went to extra time with MLS powerhouse LA Galaxy in the Fourth Round. The game winning goal that night for the Galaxy was a controversial one that left many soccer fans, who were looking for the Cinderella story, upset with the end result. The loss also left La Maquina eager for a rematch.
The 2016 US Open Cup run was something that the club can be quite proud of, despite the refereeing decision that led to what would prove to be the Galaxy’s game-winning goal. They comfortably dispatched one club from each of the top amateur leagues in the country to earn their spot in Round 4 against the Galaxy. They beat the Portland Timbers U-23s of the PDL 2-0 in the First Round. This was followed by a win over a former NPSL champion Sacramento Gold in Round 2 by the same score. La Maquina knocked off their UPSL rivals LA Wolves with another 2-0 victory in the Third Round. Former Chivas de Guadalajara and Pachuca player Edwin Borboa finished with five goals, having scored at least one in every round, to give him co-Golden Boot honors for the competition.
“Edwin Borboa came to La Maquina by chance, actually. He was brought to us by one of our players at the time, and the chemistry was instant,” said La Maquina assistant coach Jesee Magallon. “His role with the club has evolved a lot over the past few years.”
In his short time with the club, Borboa has laid the foundation for the club on a long-term basis when he was named club director last year.
“ has been running the youth club, Maquina FC, which consists of about 120 kids from Los Angeles and Orange County,” said Magallon. “The creation of this feeder program by Borboa has helped ensure the future of our club. The concept was Edwin’s idea, to have actual players who play for La Maquina teach the youth players our style and our approach to the game.”
While they qualified for the second year in a row, the 2017 version of the Open Cup did not yield quite the same run as 2016. La Maquina lost their opening round game to the PDL’s Fresno Fuego, 4-1. This meant the dream rematch against the Galaxy would have to wait for another season.
They qualified for the 2018 tournament with an impressive 5-0 win over Bell Gardens FC of the UPSL in Round 1 of qualifying. La Maquina was once again led by their star Borboa, who came up with two more Open Cup goals to add to his resume. Beto Godinez also contributed two goals that day, while the fifth goal was scored by Jose Montes de Oca.
La Maquina advanced on a forfeit in the next round, when the Las Vegas Mobsters failed to show up for the match. Then, they earned an impressive 4-1 win over Chula Vista FC in a “Win & You’re In” match to punch their ticket to the competition. Borboa notched another goal in the victory, while Rosendo Castro led the way for La Maquina with his two-goal effort.
“That game was tough, because we had to play it with 60% of our starting lineup,” said Magallon. “We ran into early issues. To start, we were only able to have 13 players present and that made making adjustments a bit tricky.”
La Maquina has no shortage of experienced players when it comes to UPSL and Open Cup play. Other than Borboa, who has six years of Liga MX experience and two Apertura titles to his name, the team is loaded with experienced players.
The club has multiple players back to appear in the Cup for a third consecutive year. Those players include Luis Sosa, Edgar Orozco, Ricky Ramirez, David Paniagua, Rosendo Castro, Jose Castro, Thales Serra, Jorge Pineda, and Rodolfo Godinez. Two of the new faces to look out for include José Montes de Oca, another former Mexican pro who scored in qualifying play, and Joel Palomares, one of the club’s top young talents.
“I’d say our experience in the Cup is our biggest advantage. It’s great to be able to have guys that have felt the pressures of what the Open Cup really means,” said Magallon. “There are teams out there that have wonderful squads, but have never been under that kind of pressure. We have played in front of big crowds, on the road, and we feel that’s been a great learning experience. The Cup has really humbled us. There’s not much left but to wish FC Tucson and all the other participating teams good luck.”
The club, whose name pays homage to Liga MX’s Cruz Azul, is currently in fourth place of the very competitive UPSL Western Conference Pro Premier. They are currently 3-1-2 with their biggest win coming against fellow Open Cup qualifier Santa Ana Winds by the score of 3-0. It’s a budding rivalry that some have started calling the Downtown OC Derby.
Just like last year, their opening round opponent is another strong team from the PDL on the road.
“Our hopes for this year’s Open Cup is to make it further than ever before. Last year was a bit of let down,” added Magallon. “We traveled unprepared to face a team we knew nothing about and had little preparation. This time, we are much more focused and we have been craving a rematch with the Galaxy for a while now. I think it’s time we get another shot at it.”
“We will not overlook FC Tucson because we know they are going to come to play.”