Tyler Miller has been a rock in goal for Los Angeles Football Club in 2019, but starting on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup, there will be a new face between the posts for the club.
23-year-old Pablo Sisniega is the likely choice to be starting for LAFC on Tuesday when they face Real Salt Lake in the fourth round of the Open Cup in Utah — he was made available to the media on Monday — and he won’t get an easy assignment in his first-ever first team pro match, with Miller away with the U.S. Men’s National Team for the Gold Cup.
The good news? LAFC hit paydirt with one of their first young goalkeepers, as Miller beat out Honduras international Luis Lopez, who was hurt half the season, last year. Lopez went back to Honduras in the offseason, and Sisniega was brought in as the primary backup for Miller.
Sisniega fills a key profile for LAFC, as an American-Mexican. That means he’s eligible for the Open Cup, and he doesn’t take up an international roster slot, by virtue of being a U.S. citizen. It’s unclear if LAFC really planned for Miller to be out for at least the initial Open Cup game (or two if they win Tuesday), but don’t expect RSL to launch a protest over LAFC’s eligibility this time around.
In some ways, LAFC have been playing so well that Sisniega can stay loose for this big game. The team in front of him is in outstanding form, coming off over a week’s rest, and as long as he doesn’t make mistakes, there’s no reason to believe the goalkeeper would bring everything grinding to a halt.
But there are two factors that possibly hurt that easygoing feeling. The first is that two key players — Walker Zimmerman and Mark-Anthony Kaye — are also gone, at the Gold Cup, too. Kaye’s spot is likely to be filled by Lee Nguyen with little issue, but Zimmerman is likely to be replaced by Danilo Silva, who has looked shaky in limited minutes this season and was roasted by RSL last year in the playoffs. LAFC have surely been planning for this for some time, but it’s a concern nonetheless.
The other part is the pressure. If LAFC lose to RSL, they’re out of the U.S. Open Cup. This is a competition LAFC wants to win, and I don’t expect Bob Bradley to trot out a bunch of reserves. In fact, I think he’ll play as strong a lineup as he can between the international absences and roster restrictions for the competition. Sisniega can’t afford to only draw. If LAFC get knocked out, it will be a big disappointment, even if they’re playing against fellow MLS opposition from the start.
Given that we’ve only seen Pablo Sisniega in preseason action so far, it’s impossible to know what to expect on Tuesday. Will he be shaky? Will he be shaky and still get the job done? Will he look like a champ right away? It’s all possible, and while Tyler Miller’s status as LAFC No. 1 is surely safe regardless of how Sisniega performs, this is the youngster’s time to begin to really make a mark in his professional career.
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