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Heartbreak: Houston Dynamo 3 (7), LAFC 3 (6)

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LAFC engineered a brilliant comeback in the US Open Cup Semifinals, but fell in penalties.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Houston Dynamo vs Los Angeles FC John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Run came to an end on Wednesday night against the Houston Dynamo. A hat trick from forward Diego Rossi was not enough as LAFC came back from a 3-1 deficit, drawing against the Dynamo in 120 minutes 3-3. LAFC fell short in the penalty shootout, and exited the Open Cup in the semifinals.

The action got started early, with Diego Rossi putting the Black-and-Gold ahead just six minutes into the match, before even the video stream was up and running. Lee Nguyen found Rossi with a pass from the midfield as Rossi cut behind the middle of Houston’s defense, and Rossi was one-on-one with Dynamo keeper Joe Willis. Rossi was able to slot the ball calmly past Willis despite being pursued by Philippe Senderos, and LAFC started the game on the right foot.

Unfortunately for Bob Bradley and his men, and for those watching a stream, the lead lasted all of six minutes, as Houston found an equalizer in the 12th thanks to Andrew Wenger, also before the stream started. Adam Lundkvist swung in a corner kick that Tyler Miller missed entirely, and Wenger was able to chest the ball home, completely unmarked. Jordan Harvey was marking another man in the box, while both Steven Beitashour and Lee Nguyen missed Wenger standing just feet from the goal. Wenger didn’t need a kick to equalize, but that was just the beginning for Houston.

Shabby defending cost LAFC yet another goal in the 25th minute, as Mauro Manotas bagged a second goal for the Dynamo early. Alberth Elis found Manotas cutting in behind Laurent Ciman, and the forward was kept onside by Walker Zimmerman. Manotas then took the ball in stride and slotted it into the far corner of the net to take the lead.

The match almost seemed out of reach for the Black-and-Gold in the 75th minute, when Memo Rodriguez put in one more goal for the Dynamo from within LAFC’s box. Rodriguez received the ball from Tomas Martinez and dribbled into the box against Beitashour, and shot a low ball at the near post, just beating Tyler Miller for Houston’s third.

Although the game seemed out of reach for LAFC, Rossi created hope for his side just three minutes later. A cross from Jordan Harvey from the left side of the pitch was deflected high into the air, and the ball took another touch off Latif Blessing and Senderos before it fell to the foot of Rossi, who just beat Joe Willis to get his team back in the game.

Rossi took on the role of the hero for LAFC in added time, with LAFC’s Open Cup run on the line. In the sixth of six added minutes, Jordan Harvey drew a foul from just outside the box. Aaron Kovar took the kick and swung the ball past Willis and past the goalkeeper’s box, where Diego Rossi got his head to it. The ball just had enough air on it to go over the heads of three Dynamo defenders, and bounced into the back of the net for a dramatic equalizer.

The equalizer by Rossi in added time was also his third goal of the night, becoming the first player in the modern U.S. Open Cup era to score a hat trick after the quarterfinals.

Both LAFC and Houston used all three of their substitutions in regular time, which led to a labored extra time. Both teams had multiple teams cramping and having a hard time pushing forward, although there were a couple chances interspersed. The Dynamo, in particular, had several chances in extra time inside LAFC’s box, but to no avail. Right at the end of the period, before going to penalties, there was chaos in the box, featuring multiple players getting a touch on the ball for Houston, and several trying to clear the ball for LAFC. It ended with Senderos getting the ball and getting dispossessed with a tackle, causing him to go down. Houston called for a penalty, but to no avail, and the match headed to penalties.

The penalty shootout was as dramatic as the match deserved. LAFC went ahead when Tyler Miller saved a shot from Boniek Garcia in the fourth round of kicks, the first save between the two teams. However, in the last kick of the fifth round, Joe Willis saved Laurent Ciman’s shot by diving all the way to his right, pushing the shootout to sudden death. The deciding goal came when Willis repeated the feat against Latif Blessing three sets later, in the eighth round of the shootout. That save was the one that eliminated LAFC from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and sent the Houston Dynamo to their first Open Cup Final in their history. LAFC’s run, which could have seen them become the first MLS expansion team to make the Final of the Open Cup since Seattle in 2009, came to a dramatic, but heartbreaking close.

LAFC’s next match is Saturday, when they host Sporting Kansas City at the Banc of California Stadium.

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