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Sisniega Shines: LAFC 3, San Jose Earthquakes 1

Goalkeeper comes up big as black-and-gold advance in U.S. Open Cup

Courtesy of LAFC

Los Angeles Football Club overcame an early push and goal from the in-state rival San Jose Earthquakes and won 3-1 Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Pablo Sisniega came up with multiple stifling saves and enjoyed three LAFC goals, one from each of the starting forwards.

With Steven Beitashour still recovering from a pulled hamstring and Mark-Anthony Kaye, Walker Zimmerman, and Tyler Miller all still away representing their nations at the Gold Cup, LAFC filled these holes in the lineup similarly to their fourth round match nine days ago with Adama Diomande at striker, Danilo Silva at center back, Lee Nguyen at left midfield, and Tristan Blackmon with his fourth straight start at right back.

It did not take long for the Earthquakes to test the newer back line.

San Jose broke out with a two-on-two fast break in the seventh minute. With only Tristan Blackmon able to help out, Christian Espinoza cut the ball back upon entering the box on the right side. Silva was catching up so Espinoza laid the ball off for the trailing Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili who carefully placed a shot inside the left post past a diving Pablo Sisniega.

Perhaps sensing LAFC’s vulnerabilities, San Jose found another threatening opportunity in the 15th minute. Espinoza found himself with a one-on-one with Jordan Harvey on the right side. He sent in a low cross towards the six-yard box and a crashing Chris Wondolowski redirected the ball towards the far post with a back-heel, but Sisniega was quick to dive and secure the shot with two hands.

Then, in the 21st minute, it looked as though San Jose had stunningly doubled their lead. Judson lofted in a curling ball from the left side of the box where Wondolowski, unmarked, calmly headed the ball on net. Sisniega only got a tip on the shot before it hit the back of the net, but the goal was promptly disallowed as Wondolowski was called offside.

Despite the play being disallowed, Sisniega came through again in the 28th minute when Vako was lofted a long through-ball over the top of the back line from midfield. With only Sisniega to beat from inside the right side of the box, Vako took a low shot towards the far post. Sisniega came out, made himself big, and stuck enough of his right leg out to tip the shot wide.

San Jose’s Marcos Lopez was awarded the game’s first yellow card in the 32nd minute after chopping down Latif Blessing.

Three minutes later, LAFC evened the score. With the top of the box crowded, Lee Nguyen sent a calmly placed through-ball into the space inside the left side of the box. Diego Rossi ran with the rolling ball and patiently waited for San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell to charge the ball and make his shape. Rossi took one more moment to let Tarbell fall to the ground with his move before chipping home the equalizer with his left foot.

After scoring just once in the last nine MLS matches, Rossi has put together consecutive games with goals for the first time since April 6th.

Though LAFC went into halftime with a 55-45 possession advantage, they faced an unfamiliar disadvantage in shot count with San Jose winning the battle, 9-6.

Los Angeles immediately won a corner kick in the third minute of the second half. Eddie Segura rose up and headed a shot on net. It redirected off the post across the goal line before Tarbell poked it back out for another corner.

The second yellow card of the game was shown in the 52nd minute when Judson grabbed a breaking Diomande from behind.

Diomande got his revenge in the 60th minute after LAFC combined for four crisp passes at midfield, the last of which was a Rossi through-ball to the striker. Diomande chased it down with Tarbell charging, but he took an extra touch past the keeper before placing home the go-ahead goal.

Christian Ramirez came on as LAFC’s first substitute after the goal to give Diomande a rest after the pivotal goal.

Eduard Atuesta then earned Los Angeles’ first yellow card in the 66th minute after taking down San Jose’s Magnus Eriksson.

The Earthquakes quickly matched LAFC’s crisp pass combination with a build-up that ended with Vako again having just Sisniega to beat. This time on the left side of the box, Vako again shot far post and Sisniega again came out big and stuck a leg out to make the save.

LAFC made their second substitution in the 84th minute when Josh Perez came on for Nguyen.

A minute later, captain Carlos Vela found an impactful opportunity after a surprising relatively quiet game so far. Blackmon sent him on a run down the right side and Vela cut back to the middle to put the ball on his favored left foot. After two fake shots, Vela ripped a low shot into the bottom right corner to lock up a ticket to the next round.

San Jose earned a final yellow card in the first minute of added time when Tommy Thompson took down Perez. The game was whistled over after six minutes of added time.

Having such an abnormal break between matches, it was encouraging to see Los Angeles get the gears turning after a slow start and overcome an early deficit. Sisniega also turned in a marvelous performance with eight saves. LAFC will face the Portland Timbers in the quarterfinals on July 10.

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