LAFC needed a big second half in order to advance to the US Open Cup Quarter-Finals on Wednesday night against Sacramento Republic FC.
Spearheaded by Diego Rossi, LAFC came back to win 3-2 with goals from Benny Feilhaber, Rossi, and Latif Blessing.
The victory means that LAFC will play the Portland Timbers on July 18th at home with kick off still to be determined.
Sacramento Starts Out Hot
Sacramento came close to scoring the opening goal 24 minutes into this contest. Cameron Iwasa received a pass down the left channel and took his attempt first time. Iwasa’s left footed shot, however, but ricocheted off the right post.
The visitors’ initial stream of pressure paid off 11 minutes later. Jure Matjašič sprinted into the box, and even with Tyler Miller covering the near post, got his shot on frame. The ball bounced high into the air and fell straight to the feet of Elliott Hord, who made no mistake with the finish.
Feilhaber Redeems Himself
Eduard Atuesta played Benny Feilhaber in with a deft right-footed pass. Feilhaber was then bowled over by Mitchell Taintor and the referee pointed to the spot immediately. The veteran Feilhaber stepped up, stuttered towards the ball, but the spot kick was poor as Josh Cohen saved it easily.
“I use to tell my son that the reason that Larry Bird always wanted to take the shot at the end of the game was because he can deal with it, if he missed,” Bob Bradley said.
“So if you want to step up and take penalties, then they’re not all gonna go in. And as a coach, the lesson you want is a guy who takes a penalty and if he doesn’t score, then he’s finished for the rest of the day; and that’s not Benny [Feilhaber].
So at halftime he was leading the group, saying the right things and then look, he then finds another way to make the game 1-1. In terms of strong performance and great effort and leadership yes, I would agree, Benny had a really good game.”
LAFC’s captain redeemed himself in the second half. Feilhaber received the ball from Atuesta once more. The 33-year-old dribbled by a couple of Sacramento defenders and beat Cohen with a right-footed finish.
“But I think I got a little bit extra space, more than I thought I would. I think it was Eduard [Atuesta] that played in that ball between the seams and I kind of turned and faced them up,” Feilhaber said.
And I think they thought maybe I was gonna try and pass, so I just started drifting a little bit into the box and use my body to cut inside and when I got inside, I knew that I had the opportunity for the shot.
So the guy tried to go for the block, so I was able to push it one more over to the right and I still don’t think I kicked it very well but thankfully I kicked it hard enough to get onto the goal.”
Bradley’s defense fell asleep for a couple of seconds in the build up toward Sacramento’s second goal. . Vilian Bizhev initiated a quick one-two with Matjašič and continued the move with former LA Galaxy man Jaime Villarreal. Bizhev beat Miller up and into the back of the net.
LAFC Score Twice to Win
There was still life in the LAFC attack, however. Rossi could have tied things up in the 65th minute, but his effort bounced off the right post. Two minutes later, Rossi finally managed to level the match at two. Lee Nguyen slipped Rossi in behind the Republic FC defense and the young Uruguayan took two touches slotting past a diving Cohen.
Latif Blessing has a knack for coming up big at the right time in the US Open Cup. He did it numerous times while he was a member of Sporting Kansas City. Blessing left his mark on this match at the most opportune time.
Atuesta set Rossi, this time on the right side, through with another diagonal pass. As Rossi was sprinting into the area, he looked up, spotted Blessing and hit an inch-perfect square ball. The pass bounced off Blessing’s left foot while tumbling into the netting.
LAFC are back to MLS action on Saturday night at the Banc of California Stadium. They welcome in Gyasi Zardes and the Columbus Crew. Kick off for the match is scheduled for 7:30 PM.