CARSON, Calif. – The last time the LA Galaxy won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was in September of 2005, when they defeated FC Dallas 1-0 at The Home Depot Center.
It is a championship drought they are determined to end starting Tuesday night, when they host the USL Pro’s Los Angeles Blues at 7:30 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium.
“I think it’s a competition we want to do well in,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who won the Cup in 1996 when he was head coach of D.C. United. “This particular game comes at a good time, so there’s no excuse why we can’t do well.”
The Galaxy reached the Open Cup Quarterfinals last season before falling to the eventual champion Seattle Sounders FC. That was their first time playing in the tournament proper since 2007 after losing at home in a pair of First Round Play-In Games to the Colorado Rapids in 2008 and 2009. The Galaxy, who did not start competing in the Open Cup, the oldest soccer competition in the United States, until 1999 have won two Open Cup titles and have reached the quarterfinals eight times in 12 tries.
LA’s first championship came in 2001, when they defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 at Titan Stadium. Former Galaxy defender Danny Califf scored the golden goal winner in the second minute of extra time, heading home a pass from Galaxy legend Cobi Jones to give the Galaxy the second championship in club history.
Four years later, the Galaxy were Open Cup champions for a second time, defeating FC Dallas 1-0 at The Home Depot Center. Herculez Gomez, who scored a club record six goals in that year’s tournament, rounded out a sensational tournament with a first half scissors kick. That goal gave the Galaxy a 1-0 lead and Kevin Hartman and the rest of the Galaxy defense made that lead stand, holding on for the championship.
That late September victory helped set the stage for one of the Galaxy’s most memorable seasons, one that ended with the club claiming a second MLS Cup title thanks to a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution in extratime at Pizza Hut Park.
“That (Open Cup title) kind of set the tone for us in 2005,” said defender Todd Dunivant, who was a member of that championship squad. “We won that, and we kind of had that championship mentality. It helped give us confidence.
“When the playoffs started we were in a winning mode and we carried that all the way through.”
The Galaxy also reached the Open Cup Final in 2002, when they lost to the Columbus Crew 1-0 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, and in 2006, when the Chicago Fire, led by current Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan, beat them 3-1 at Toyota Park.
Despite the four Open Cup Final appearances, the Galaxy have also had their share of Open Cup disappointments, usually against opponents from lower leagues. In 2004, the Galaxy lost their first game of the tournament, losing 1-0 on the road to the USL First Division’s Minnesota Thunder. Then in 2007, the Galaxy were on the wrong end of another 1-0 scoreline, losing to the USL Second Division’s Richmond (Va.) Kickers.
“We used to play the A-League (later renamed USL First Division) teams, and they were really difficult games,” said Arena, thinking back to earlier Open Cup games with D.C. United. “I remember going to Hershey (Pa.) a couple of times and winning on penalty kicks. It’s never easy and we don’t expect it to be easy this time around, either.”