Day after reflection: Onto the quarterfinals
As it was long discussed both on the Heart of LAFC podcast and throughout the LAFC internet, San Jose was not the same team we played at the beginning of the season. In the game earlier in the year, the Earthquakes were still trying to find the system that worked best for them, while LAFC was already drilled with what to do during a game. The game last night showed on multiple levels that San Jose is on the right track to no longer holding the wooden spoon, but it also showed that LAFC is going to be ready for any fight the rest of the year.
Being a US Open Cup game, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare prior to the game. I was really going to be looking at how LAFC was going to play with three of their main starters out due to international call-ups. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Walker Zimmerman, and Tyler Miller are all away, so it was going to require some of the bench players for the Black & Gold to step up and continue the winning ways of LAFC.
The first half of the game for LAFC wouldn’t be one that goes on the highlight reel for the end of the year DVD. The team was trying to find their touch and communication was flawed. This is why San Jose was able to find a ball through the back of the backline of LAFC and scored the early goal. Everything just seemed a little bit off for the boys, but they started to settle down towards the ending moments of the opening half. The goal by Diego Rossi was great for LA, as they needed to have some momentum going into the second.
One of the main things that LAFC were able to do in the second half compared for the first half was taking the game to San Jose. In the first 45, the Black & Gold were waiting for the Earthquakes to bring the ball towards them, just fighting in the midfield. In the second half though, LAFC started to get more quality possessions, meaning they are driving towards goal and trying to get shots on target. It worked well because they found holes in the San Jose defense which allowed both goals, first by Adama Diomande, and the second by Carlos Vela.
Likely the talk of the match though would have to be the big man between the sticks, Pablo Sisniega. There was a lot of chatter before the US Open Cup kicked off that people just didn’t know how Sisniega was going to do. Miller has been the only goalkeeper for LAFC this season and has done a fairly good job at becoming one of the most solid keepers in MLS. Sisniega just had to keep on waiting for his chance to prove that he is also worthy of being on the pitch.
And he’s done exactly that.
In two straight US Open Cup matches, Sisniega has been able to stonewall both opponents, Real Salt Lake and San Jose, respectively. There were shots in both games, but especially last night, that looked like the ball was going to be in the back of the net. Sisniega did a great job at keeping himself big and only allowing the one goal at the beginning of the game. While there might be some people are going to be calling for Sisniega to become the full-time starter, I don’t he deserves that just quite yet. Miller has done nothing to lose his starting position for this team, but it will likely make Miller work harder to stay in the number one position. LAFC have depth everywhere on the pitch, which is something they didn’t have last season.
For LAFC, it was just another clinical performance on how to play at home. They are unbeaten at home for the year, but their schedule is starting to get stacked for July. The most important game is usually the next one, which is an away match against Colorado, but everyone will be circling July 10th. The quarterfinal matchup against the Portland Timbers will be a massive game in the history of LAFC. It will be the match of the final eight, and emotions are going to be running high between the two squads. LAFC just needs to continue to do what they do best; control possession, take advantage of being at the Banc of California stadium, and score goals. If they do that, the sky’s the limit for this team.