Galaxy looking to gain momentum following the elimination of rival LAFC


Galaxy winger Tyler Boyd (center) celebrates his goal with Marco Delgado during the US Open Cup round of 16 match against LAFC at BMO Stadium on Tuesday in Los Angeles. (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — If you ask anyone in Major League Soccer what they think of the US Open Cup, you’ll get a mixed response.

Some coaches undermine the tournament, while others see it as an opportunity. Commissioner Don Garber recently said it was a poor reflection of what the United States wants to achieve with football at the highest level. Organized by US Soccer, the competition pits MLS teams against lower-tier professional and amateur teams.

It’s quite a mystery, but the facts are this: the winner lifts a trophy and gets a place in the CONCACAF Champions League.

On Tuesday night, LAFC hosted rivals LA Galaxy in an Open Cup version of El Trafico, perhaps the least anticipated of all since they faced off in empty stadiums during the pandemic season. When the line-ups were announced ahead of the game, it was clear how the two teams approached the encounter. LAFC, reigning MLS Cup champions and Supporters’ Shield winners, were traveling with a roster full of juniors from their MLS NEXT Pro team. Some of their usual starters watched from their suites at the stadium, others probably from their homes.

For Steve Cherundolo this tournament doesn’t matter at the moment. They have bigger fish to fry as LAFC shifts its focus to traveling to Mexico to face Club Leon in the first leg of the CCL Finals on May 31.

The Galaxy had a slightly rotated starting XI, but there were enough starters to make it a game to win for them. They took care of business and clinched a 2-0 win thanks to stunning goals from Tyler Boyd and Riqui Puig.

For Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney, this tournament should be of great importance in the present moment.

The start of the MLS season was a disaster for the Galaxy, who are bottom of the West. Results and targets were hard to find, especially on the street. Although the game took place just a few miles down the highway, it was an away game. Sure, it was against a group of players where they probably should have scored a few more goals. And yes, there may be more negatives than positives to her performance if you really sit down and assess how she’s turned out. Goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann came on a couple of times to keep the clean sheet, otherwise we might have a very different discussion.

But at the end of the day, what matters is for the Galaxy to beat LAFC and advance to the quarter-finals of the tournament, where they will visit Real Salt Lake on June 7th.

“It’s a tough place to play. They don’t lose many games here,” Vanney said after the win. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side. It doesn’t matter who’s playing. anything. Such games are always difficult. And tonight I’m proud of our boys.”

At this point, with so much turmoil in the galaxy, every victory is precious. They’re still trying to establish a mentality and build some cohesion while trying to get out of multiple holes. That only works if you win.

The main goal is to earn points in league play to earn a place in the playoffs, but there is still a lot of time left in this calendar. If we talk about priorities, surely Open Cup should be one now. With all the drama this year, the Galaxy are three wins short of lifting the trophy.

Javier Hernández of Los Angeles Galaxy during the US Open Cup Round of 16 match against Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium on May 23, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

They have little room for error and if they manage to be there for a trophy that gets a lot of others watching it should ease the tension a bit.

“Nevertheless, it’s a trophy,” Puig said when asked about the often-criticized dynamic of the tournament. “It depends on how you want to deal with it, [LAFC] We saw it that way and we played it like another final. And we won tonight. I think we deserve it and I’m really happy to win my first El Trafico derby.”

However, the Galaxy found themselves in the same position last year, losing at home in the quarterfinals to USL club Sacramento Republic. Vanney and company seem to have learned from the experience. We’ll definitely know in a few weeks. However, should they win and progress, the semi-finals will not take place until the end of August due to this year’s new League Cup format that will take over the summer schedule.

“It doesn’t matter what the trophy is. It’s always a legacy for a group,” said Vanney. “All these games are important because they are emotional and you play something every time.”

The more the galaxy wins or loses, the more confused the outlook becomes. For now, they can rejoice in a victory over their rivals that they hope will lead to something even greater.

“It gives us lift, but the foot can’t come off the pedal,” Boyd said. “We have to keep pushing. It just has to be a little nudge in the right direction and we have to work really hard, stick together and build momentum.”

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