Galaxy’s U.S. Open Cup run ends in Salt Lake City

Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Real Salt Lake defeats LA Galaxy, 3-2, as Javier 'Chicarito' Hernandez gets injured in the loss.

The LA Galaxy seemed to be gradually turning a corner after they beat Real Salt Lake last week and beat LAFC in their last U.S. Open Cup game a couple of weeks before. The team was 4-3 in their previous seven games (in all competitions) after a 3-8-3 start. But on Wednesday, much of this progress slowed as the Galaxy lost the Salt Lake, 3-2, and team captain Javier ‘Chicarito’ Hernández left due to injury. 

Real Salt Lake forward Damir Kreilach scored two goals in the first half. The first came 19 minutes into the game when he found open space in the Galaxy box and tapped in a cross from forward Rubio Rubín. 

Soon after, 24 minutes into the game, Hernández received the ball but fell to the ground after a touch and a few steps. He was stretchered off the field. 

After the game, head coach Greg Vanney said Hernández suffered a right knee injury, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be done to determine the severity of it. Hernández will fly with the team back to Los Angeles rather than staying in Salt Lake City for further care.

Salt Lake controlled most of the remaining half by dominating the midfield and stopping the Galaxy’s build-ups. But the Galaxy were set only to be down 1-0 as the final minutes ticked off the first half clock. 

However, in stoppage time, defender Martín Cáceres contacted Rubín, who fell to the ground, drawing a penalty kick. Kreilach buried the penalty kick, giving Salt Lake a two-goal halftime lead. 

Vanney disagreed with the call, saying such contact is regular during corner kicks. 

“[The referee] was looking for it. His eyes were on it, and he was looking for something to call, and he just picked out something to call. At 2-0, it becomes a different chase than at 1-0,” Vanney said.

The problems persisted early in the second half as midfielder Riqui Puig turned the ball over and forward Jefferson Savarino scored after faking out goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. 

The Galaxy played the rest of the game tighter and involved more players in the attack. Rather than two or three passes in the build-up, they produced more extensive ball movement as they moved up the field. 

The adjustment helped the Galaxy rally back with two goals at the 82 and 84-minute marks by midfielder Gastón Brugman and forward Douglas Costa, respectively. However, their efforts fell short.

Brugman scored off a penalty kick.

Costa’s goal-scoring strike featured a well-placed and powerful strike as he ran toward the center of the field from outside the box.

“[Costa] came on and looked sharp,” Vanney said. “There is no denying his quality… We want to keep him dynamic where he is moving off the ball, moving with the ball, he’s building some tempo into our attacks… Tonight, he had a wonderful finish that he is capable of doing… It’s continuing to just get consistency from him which will allow him to build up his fitness levels.”

Gaston hopes the Galaxy can stay united to push for a playoff spot in the MLS. The team is currently last in the Western Conference with 12 points.

“We just have to keep working hard and keep believing. I know it is the same words we have been saying for a while, but I think it’s the only method I know. It’s hard work staying united and keeping positive,” said Brugman through a translator. 

Next, the Galaxy plays St. Louis City SC, in an MLS game, on Sunday with a chance to push towards their goals of the playoffs by securing three points.