LAFC advances in US Open Cup with win at USL’s Lights

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
LAFC traveled to Las Vegas and left with a 3-1 victory over their former developmental team in the US Open Cup Round of 32.

LAS VEGAS — At its core, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup may be the purest competition in the American sports landscape.

The tournament is annually contested between more than 100 teams from all levels of the United States Soccer pyramid, from the top of the MLS to the NISA. This open format gives way to some rather unorthodox match ups. Many of which require MLS teams to play in cities and towns across the country against lower-tier clubs that would never get a game of such magnitude without the Cup.

The magic that is the US Open Cup draw produced one of the more interesting MLS/USL crossover matchups in the tournament’s recent history, finishing with a 3-1 victory for LAFC on Wednesday night at Cashman Field,

The defending MLS runners-up, traveled to the corpse of Cashman Field faced their former farm team in a Round of 32 contest. Until the MLS established the NextPro division before last season, the Lights were the developmental club for the rising MLS power.

Despite being nearly 250 miles away from their BMO Stadium, the LAFC faithful showed out.

“Obviously close from Los Angeles, many supporters were able to make the trip,” LAFC midfielder Ilie Sanchez said. “It felt (like) that LAFC environment that we have at the stadium, but in a tough place to play,”

“I think that our fans understand very well, what it is to be part of the LAFC organization. That we don’t take games for granted and we try to win every single game, every single trophy that we fight for.”

The first half was a tight-rope act for the Lights, who survived a few serious attacking threats from LAFC. Still, they held firm long enough to get to halftime locked in a 0-0 draw. The first-half performance even gave the PA announcer enough courage to tease a potential “cupset” to the crowd during the break.

The biggest first-half highlight came right before halftime. LAFC manager and US soccer legend Steve Cherundolo received a red card in a sideline dust up between the teams.

Kei Kamara scored the match’s first goal 80 seconds into the second half, giving LAFC a lead that seemed like it would be plenty.

“Personally, it’s nice to get a goal and to wash that off you and get going even though it’s in the cup,” Kamara said. “It feels good again to pick the team up and put us back into the game.”

Nine minutes later, though, Lights defender Shawn Smart scored on a header off of a corner kick to tied the match at 1-1. The Lights drum section applied a steady rhythm of sounds throughout the game, but the goal really gave them a chance to let loose.

In the 70th minute, Christian Oliveira shook LAFC out of their sleep with a goal, the the first score in an off-the-bench brace for the 22-year-old Oliveira.

“I’m very happy because I’ve been working on this for a long time with the coaches and teammates,” Oilvera said. “The team deserves this and much more. I think this team is ready for great things.

“I think the team is ready for this and much more.”

The goal was a result of a bad bounce for the Lights defense after goalie Raiko Arozarena deflected the initial shot.

LAFC added a third goal — and second by Olivera — in the opening minute of extra time. They nearly added a fourth in the score was waved off in the waning moments of extra time.

“The Lights also came with everything they had,” Sanchez said “It’s this kind of tournament where if an MLS team doesn’t take (someone) seriously, they can struggle and we didn’t let that happen tonight.”