On a brisk spring night in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Legends earned their first ever US Open Cup victory with a 3-2 win over the Park City Red Wolves at Peter Johann Field.
Buoyed by two first half goals, the Legends held off a late Red Wolves comeback attempt to secure their place in the next round of the US Open Cup, where they will face New Mexico United of the USL Championship on April 5.
The Legends wasted no time drawing first blood in the match, with a goal from team captain Samuel Aina just under ten minutes into the game. A second goal from Brandon Vargas in the 33rd minute helped cap off a half in which the Legends dominated both on the field and on the scoreboard, and saw them head into the locker room with a 2-0 lead at the break.
“In the beginning of the game, we controlled very well,” said Legends head coach Jose Rivera after the game. “Towards the end of the match, we started to get tired.”
That late game took its toll on the Legends squad, nearly costing them the match.
A 68th minute goal from Roberto Soto, who took advantage of a lapse in the Red Wolves defense to make an impressive solo run, gave the Legends a three goal advantage, and proved to be the goal that would decide the game.
Rivera opted to use four of his five substitutions simultaneously midway through the second half, and an injury to defender Daniel Osuji just minutes later left the team without the ability to replace tired legs, and allowed for the Red Wolves to make a late comeback.
After dominating the first 75 minutes of the match, the Legends began to tire and the Red Wolves attack found life in the form of an 84th goal for Brandon Fuchs, on what was Park City’s first real scoring chance from play (they had threatened on a pair of corner kicks earlier in the game, but struggled to break down the Legends defense from the run of play).
Halfway through stoppage time, substitute Kevin Jara-Collante was able to navigate a shot through a crowded Legends box to cut the deficit to just one goal, and giving the Red Wolves hope of a late comeback.
However, it was not to be as the Legends held on to close out the game and go home as 3-2 winners.
“It was great playing at UNLV, in Vegas, and to beat this team here shows that we are a big Vegas team, and I think that we are the strongest team in Vegas – I’m proud to say it,” said 18-year-old midfielder Elad Cohen, who came onto the game as one of the subs in the 61st minute for the Legends.
Cohen’s father, Meir, is the owner of the Legends and was equally thrilled at the team’s victory Wednesday night.
The Park City Red Wolves return to Utah to prepare for the upcoming NPSL season, while the Legends get ready to head to New Mexico to take on New Mexico United.
“I believe we are ready to compete,” said Rivera about next round’s matchup. “We will prepare with a lot of excitement … with a lot of concentration. The boys are ready, you can find a lot of quality in our team, and it is something that we are very proud of … the boys can do it.”
Coach Rivera’s squad will have a little over a month to prepare before their May 4 fixture in the next round in New Mexico.