On an dramatic night of soccer, the host Los Angeles FC came back twice from a goal down to level the match against a tough Sacramento Republic side looking for their second consecutive upset. LAFC was able to advance to the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup as they kept fighting until the final moments of the match when Diego Rossi found Latif Blessing for the winner in the 89th minute.
“We said it before the match and then again at half time that Cup matches you have to earn. We don’t get anything for free,” commented LAFC head coach Bob Bradley after the match. “I think that there was a good mentality.”
LAFC was on the front foot early, controlling much of the possession and making runs in behind the Republic defense. The best chance of the opening moment fell to Lee Nguyen in the 7th minute, but he curled his effort over the keeper and back out off the cross bar.
Benny Feilhaber of LAFC celebrates a goal against the Sacramento Republic in the Fifth Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: LAFC
This was followed by a long spell of Sacramento finding their way back into the match as neither side created any major chance until the Republic’s Cameron Iwasa drove down the side of the box and fired a shot that just hit the post and rebounded out in the 24th minute of play. Villyan Bijev found the ensuing rebound, forcing LAFC’s keeper Tyler Miller into a point blank save to keep the score level.
This chance gave Sacramento confidence as they were able to find the first goal of the match not long after that. Jure Matjesic forced another big save out of Miller, but Elliot Hord was there to smash home the rebound for Republic to give them the 1-0 lead in the 35th minute.
LAFC kept fighting, and they earned a penalty kick just before the half time whistle. Captain Benny Feilhaber stepped up to take it, but Sacramento goalie Josh Cohen saved his shot easily. The visitors took a 1-0 lead into the break.
“It was disappointing. I expect to score the penalties that I take,” said Feilhaber after the match. “I don’t think it effected me other than maybe driving me to do something to atone for it and get us back on track as a team.”
“In terms of strong leadership and good performance, I thought Benny had a good game,” said coach Bradley about his captain when asked about the penalty miss.
The first 15 minutes of the second half started off slowly as neither side was able to create anything to threaten the other side. That all changed in the 58th minute when Feilhaber atoned for his missed PK miss to level the match at one goal a piece.
“I think I got a little more space than I thought I would. I turned and faced them up and just drifted inside,” said Feilhaber about his equalizing goal. “I still don’t think I kicked it that well.”
Despite leveling the score, the Republic hit back within a minute to once again take the lead as substitute Jaime Villarreal laid the ball off to Villyan Bijev who scored a beautiful goal to make it 2-1 in the 60th minute in favor of the visitors once again.
Following this effort, it became the Diego Rossi show as the Uruguayan hit the post in the 66th minute before finding LAFC’s second equalizer about a minute later. Rossi was played in by Lee Nguyen before burying the shot to make the score 2-2.
“Diego really pushed hard so that, [his] special Uruguayan mentality is on display all the time,” said Bob Bradley after the match.
Rossi once again hit the post in search of the go ahead goal in the 85th minute, as the match looked destined for extra time. Then in the 89th minute, Diego Rossi was again away on the break, but this time he played in the perfect ball across goal for Latif Blessing to tap home the game-winning goal as the home side went up 3-2.
“Obviously Sacramento is a good team,” said Feilhaber after the match. “Cup games, whether it is here or anywhere else in the world, are always tough games.” LAFC will now host the Timbers at home on July 18th just a few days after playing them in MLS league play. “If you asked me which I would rather win I’d say the Open Cup and get to the semis,” said Feilhaber about the importance of continuing this Cup run. “Overall I thought we played a lot of good football and we advanced in the Cup and I look forward to playing Portland on the 18th,” said Bradley about leading his expansion team to the Quarterfinals.