CARY, N.C. – Different year. Different squad. Same result.
The LA Galaxy crashed out of the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks by a 2-0 score at WakeMed Soccer Park on Wednesday, exactly one year after falling to Carolina in the 99th edition of the tournament.
Much like last year, a second half charge by the RailHawks negated Galaxy dominance in the first half as Carolina would tally a pair of goals within a 121-second span in order to advance. Midfielder Austin da Luz opened the scoring in the 59th minute and forward Brian Shriver added an insurance tally in the 61st minute.
That brief lapse ultimately proved to be LA’s undoing as the club was unable to mount a lasting challenge against the RailHawks defense.
“We lost concentration for a good five minutes. This one hurts a little bit because we were really looking to bounce back from last year with a victory, but credit to [Carolina] I thought that they did a good job when we put our heads down. It’s tough, but we have to move forward," said midfielder Rafael Garcia, who has been a part of both losses to Carolina.
The sudden collapse between the 59th and 61st minute weren’t the only issues for the Galaxy as they struggled to create any semblance of offense in the final third. Even during the dominant moments in the first half, LA would see too many attacks end on the feet of their forwards Jose Villarreal and Charlie Rugg as the RailHawks defense were able to keep the Galaxy out of rhythm.
For all their possession early on, LA’s first shot on goal did not come until the 71st minute when second half substitute Gyasi Zardes saw his shot end up in the chest of RailHawks ‘keeper Akira Fitzgerald. The task was always going to be an uphill climb for LA, who could not battle back from a two goal deficit, particularly, against a compact RailHawks defense.
“I thought we could have been a little more patient maybe; we forced a lot of balls inside and tried to play through the middle too much maybe,” said Garcia. “At the end of the day, there are no excuses. We emphasized that this is a big game for us and a big opportunity for a lot of guys. I feel like we kind of let, [head coach Bruce Arena] and the coaches down, but there’s no excuse. It wasn’t our day, but at the end of the day, we have to be sharper because if we put away our chances then we win the game.”
On the heels of LA’s second straight defeat to the RailHawks and second consecutive defeat in the third round, the Galaxy were left searching for any type of silver lining. Although it may be comprehended after the “stinging” defeat, LA Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who led the side on Wednesday, is quick to assert that the experience in Carolina may be a growth experience for the team’s young players.
“I’m disappointed that we lost, but at the end of the day, my job is to move these guys forward so that they can step into the first team whenever possible and do a great job, and continue to evolve,” Onalfo said. “From that stand point, we learned a valuable lesson today.”
Although that lesson may be learned and applied later down the road, Onalfo was defiant over any questions on whether LA was relieved to be through with the tournament after a draw that sent them across the country.
“We would have played Chivas at home [in the fourth round], so we wanted to advance. We’re disappointed,” said Onalfo. “The draw is what it is and we have to deal with that. We try to deal with it the best that we possibly could. We have to look at ourselves and get better for next time.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com