The next round of the US Open Cup is here, and Norcal battles SoCal as the San Jose Earthquakes come down to Banc of California Stadium to face Los Angeles Football Club in the Round of 16 of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup.
The last time these teams met, LAFC crushed the Earthquakes 5-0. The team was buzzing, and the fans were bouncing in the stands, as the traveling contingent of LAFC fans took over Avaya Stadium.
This was one of LAFC’s better performances this year, but since then they have barely missed a beat continuing their level of excellent play to stand atop the Supporters’ Shield standings as the Gold Cup break commenced.
For the Earthquakes, meanwhile, this was rock bottom for their season. Sitting in dead last in the standings, and humiliated at home by a team in just their second year of existence. Since that game though, instead of collapsing, the Earthquakes have actually rallied, putting together a string of good performances and now they sit tied on points with Real Salt Lake, and just outside a playoff spot in 8th place.
The whole team has performed better since that first game, but there are two main bright spots for the Quakes, Chris Wondolowski and Jackson Yueill.
Wondo has caught fire, scoring seven goals in the last three games, and reminding everyone he is still a very dangerous striker, while Yueill has helped conduct games in the midfield, and unlocked many teams with his passing skills.
Assuming both get starts in this game, those will be the two players to focus on.
LAFC will be lacking some steel in their spine, with Walker Zimmerman and Mark-Anthony Kaye on Gold Cup duty, but should still have the talent to contain the resurgent Earthquakes.
For LAFC, it will be a case of who slots into midfield and how that continues to run.
There is a spot open with Kaye at the Gold Cup, and Andre Horta’s recent departure. Lee Nguyen came in the last U.S. Open Cup game and played well. He would be the logical choice to start, but could Bob Bradley go in another direction?
Another area to watch is in the net. Pablo Sisniega had his first start for LAFC in the last Open cup match, and he was solid if not spectacular. With Tyler Miller at Gold Cup duty, Sisniega will again get the start here. He is talented for sure, but in only his second ever start for the team, in a knockout game, nerves could be a factor.
For the Quakes, Daniel Vega has been the starter during the league for the Quakes, and despite the occasional freak error, he’s been very solid. But, if the Quakes go to the bench and start Andrew Tarbell like they did in their last Open Cup game, things could get interesting. Tarbell was the Quakes starter last year and he really struggled, especially with his shot-stopping, and really with his shot-stopping on long-range shots.
If they face off against Tarbell, LAFC should shoot early, and shoot often. They could sneak one or two by, and that could blow the game open.
Prediction: LAFC 3, San Jose Earthquakes 2. The Quakes hang tight, and put up a much better fight than the last time the teams played, but LAFC get the job done and advance to the quarterfinals.
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