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Shrinking from the spotlight: LA Galaxy 3, LAFC 1

The stakes were high and LAFC were big duds.

MLS: US Open Cup-Los Angeles Football Club at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LAFC hoped a new competition in their rival against the LA Galaxy would yield a better result, but it was more of the same on Wednesday in the 2022 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, with the Galaxy winning 3-1 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The loss ends LAFC’s Open Cup quest in 2022 and maintains their all-time winless run in Carson across all competitions. While the 1st half was largely even and LAFC played tentative, but smart, they were undone by injuries in the opening 45 and two defensive breakdowns in identical circumstances in the 2nd half to fall apart, once again.

As expected, head coach Steve Cherundolo rolled out a strong lineup, with only Sebastien Ibeagha and Danny Musovski not considered “first choice,” although both have been getting starts lately and their inclusions were not a shock. The Galaxy went with a strong lineup among players available as well, with Designated Player Douglas Costa a scratch due to an injury.

The opening stretch of the game was tight on both sides, with neither team wanting to make a big mistake and go behind early. The first good look came in the 16th minute, when Galaxy midfielder Victor Vazquez forced a save from LAFC GK Maxime Crepeau.

The game took a concerning turn in the 20th minute, with Carlos Vela forced out of the game due to an apparent injury, with Kwadwo Opoku entering much earlier than expected. Moments after entering, the sub took a knock, but he continued to play.

Opoku had the best chance for LAFC to that point in the game in the 37th minute, as he found a yard of space in the box and forced a sliding block before it reached Galaxy GK Jonathan Klinsmann.

Moments later, a scuffle following a Galaxy counterattack broke out in midfield. Diego Palacios was undercut by Chicharito, which kicked off the scuffle, but no one was sent off from the skirmish. Palacios, however, looked worse for wear, and it appeared the medical staff were being cautious because he landed on his neck. He was taken out of the game immediately, although he walked off the field, which was a good sign, and was replaced by Latif Blessing. His substitution was classified as a head injury/special concussion sub, so LAFC effectively got an additional sub for the game if they wanted one.

The 1st half finished scoreless, as the teams regrouped at the break to try and get the breakthrough. For LAFC, the interval was more necessary considering they had already lost two starters to injury, including their talisman in Vela.

Brian Rodriguez replaced Musovski to begin the 2nd half for LAFC. He set up a chance in the 50th minute, when a misplay led to a deflection by Cristian Arango, but it nearly looped over Klinsmann, before he caught it.

From there, the Galaxy took the lead, with a direct counterattack finished by Kevin Cabral off a cross from Samuel Grandsir.

It got worse, as LAFC had to push forward to get the equalizer and that led to the second goal for the Galaxy, as they executed another counterattack, with Grandsir setting up Chicharito in the 57th minute to make it 2-0.

Ryan Hollingshead joined the fray in the 60th minute, taking over for Kellyn Acosta, who was on a yellow card. Francisco Ginella replaced Opoku in the 75th minute as LAFC were looking for a spark, anywhere.

It didn’t come, as Galaxy substitute Dejan Joveljić hit the icing on the cake, deflecting Raheem Edwards’ shot to make it 3-0 in the 81st minute.

LAFC pulled back a consolation goal in the 85th minute with Hollingshead heading home a Jose Cifuentes cross, but it was too little, too late by then.

Needless to say, the disappointment in this fixture is sadly familiar to LAFC but the team has an honest-to-the-soccer-gods mental block against the Galaxy in Carson. The manner of the mistakes may change from time to time, they may be able to score a late goal to make the scoreline look a little better, but LAFC are getting spanked by the Galaxy at their house over and over again. I think the injuries certainly hurt the prospects for LAFC, but frankly, it’s embarrassing to get throttled like this, again, especially in a knockout tournament.

LAFC are back in action on Saturday when they’ll host the San Jose Earthquakes in league play for the teams’ first meeting of 2022. The Quakes also lost in the Open Cup on Wednesday so both teams will be looking to turn the page. LAFC will need to do their best to get a quick result and not let this loss be the start of a slide that puts their Supporters’ Shield campaign in jeopardy.

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