Los Angeles FC lines up for a team photo before the club’s Fourth Round match against Real Salt Lake in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: LAFC
For the second year in a row, Real Salt Lake laid host to the league’s top team in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, and once again they were eliminated.
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In 2018, Sporting Kansas City came into Utah and came away with a 2-0 win. At the time KC were the league’s best. Last night, it was the same script. Major League Soccer’s hottest team, Los Angeles FC, leading the league in nearly every category, came out victorious with a 3-0 victory over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Carlos Vela continued his scoring ways in the 8th minute, followed by second half goals from Lee Nguyen and a clincher from second half substitute Diomande in stoppage time.
They were able to get icing on the cake in the 93rd minute when Diomande tapped in a rebound off of Rimando’s right post, after newcomer and substitute, Rodolfo Zelaya blasted a bomb from about 35 yards out from a free-kick.
LAFC are the league leaders in every attacking category. They are first in goals, assists, shots, shots on goal, goal differential, goals per game. Carlos Vela seems like the odds-on favorite for MLS MVP and last night in Salt Lake, they continued their dominant attacking performance.
Vela was able to score in the 8th minute when RSL lost possession just at the half line and Eduard Atuesta was able to slot Vela in on the right side. Vela never really had any pressure on him until after he was already inside the 18-yard-box and the ball was already leaving his left foot destined for the right far post side netting.
“Every game Carlos makes a difference,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. “There is not one player or opponent that doesn’t have incredible respect for what he is all about. He is playing at such a high level. He sets a perfect example for all of his teammates every game and it is nice to see. He plays with a really good way about him. He has got personality. He smiles, even when he gets fouled. He is not somebody to let it get in the way of anything. I think all of us have tremendous respect for how Carlos goes about it. We are really lucky that he is our leader. “
After that, the first half was frantic for periods of times where both teams shared possession and chances. Real Salt Lake’s best chance came in the 25th minute when they were able to combine from their outside back Andrew Brody through the midfield Kyle Beckerman, Kreilach and finally spring Baird in behind the LAFC defense. He had Sam Johnson open in the box but ended up crossing the ball right to the first time starting goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega’s hands.
Christian Ramirez should have put LAFC up 2-0 in the 32nd minute when he was slotted on a break away 1-on-1 with Rimando. His chip ended up hitting the crossbar and going out of play. The halftime score would remain 1-0.
“We know that there are places to play, you are going to have to be composed and move the ball quicker, in and around, from the back to the midfield, and there are angles and gaps to play through,” said LAFC’s Lee Nguyen about his halftime assessment. “We weren’t able to find it as much in the first half, but in the second half we did and it was able to give us chances. Kind of like that second goal. From there it was just closing out the game.”
The second half was almost complete dominance by LAFC, but not before RSL launched some attacks in the first opening 10 minutes. Andrew Brody served a cross through the penalty box to find Donny Toia on the far post inside the six-yard box. Donny just had the goalkeeper to beat on this flighted ball but Sisniega made arguably the biggest save of the night in the 61st minute to keep the score 1-0.
Just three minutes later Nguyen was able to add to the LAFC advantage when Latif Blessing’s through pass down the middle of the field that found him just outside of the penalty area. Nguyen took a touch to the top of the D, and put the ball into the back of the net before the defense could close on him.
“Things opened up and I was fortunate to get a good pass from Latif and good vision from Christian Ramirez to be able to leave [the pass] and I was able to finish it,” said Nguyen, who scored his first US Open Cup goal since 2012 when he was with the New England Revolution. “[The goal] gave us a 2-0 lead, and give us a little cushion.”
The visitors would add a third goal in stoppage time when Rodolfo Zelaya, making his LAFC debut, blasted a free kick that beat the keeper, struck the post, and fell to Adama Diomande, who scored an easy rebound goal to give LAFC a 3-0 lead.
With the win, LAFC moves on to the Round of 16 for the second year in a row. Their opponent will be determined when the United States Soccer Federation conducts the draw on Thursday.
“We always talk about how Open Cup is important and we were disappointed to lose last year in penalties in the Semis, and everyone was excited to get started this year,” said Bradley who won his 18th tournament game, which now is tied for fourth among all coaches in the Modern Era (1995-present). “With the schedule in June, it allowed us to play pretty close to our regular lineup but was also good to get some other guys in.
“I am really happy for Pablo Sisniega. He makes a really big save at 1-0. That is really great for his confidence,” Bradley added. “All of his teammates really appreciate him getting the chance and seeing him do well. Good for Lee [Nguyen] getting the start, then getting the goal, and then, in the end, Fito comes in and cracks a free kick and leads to the third goal. So a lot of nice things for us.”