CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will have two teams in the 101st edition of the U.S. Open Cup as the LA first team and LA Galaxy II will take part in this year’s tournament.
LA Galaxy II will begin the tournament in the second round against Cal FC on May 14 at StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium while the Galaxy first team will enter the Open Cup in the fourth round. But with both teams taking part in the tournament, several questions abound including when the two teams could meet in the competition.
To get background on the U.S. Open Cup, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano spoke to Josh Hakala, the Senior Editor of TheCup.us, which is widely considered the preeminent Open Cup website.
LA GALAXY INSIDER: Could the LA Galaxy II and LA Galaxy meet prior to the U.S. Open Cup final?
JOSH HAKALA: No, the US Soccer Federation arranges the US Open Cup draw to avoid affiliated teams from playing each other prior to the championship game.
INSIDER: Why are there rules in place to prevent teams from meeting prior to the final?
HAKALA: The federation doesn't want to give the impression that the tournament isn't on the up-and-up. While I’m sure the lower division team would put forth a good effort to try to pull off an upset, from what I gather, the federation doesn’t want it to seem as though the lower division club rolled over so that the parent club could advance in the tournament and not suffer the embarrassment of getting upset by a minor league club.
INSIDER: Does this rule mean that one or both of the teams will have to endure heavy travel to avoid each other?
HAKALA: It's certainly possible. It depends on what other teams are left and how the draw shakes out. There are similar problems with teams in Texas. Sometimes there's no way to avoid having to travel. The draw is a little complicated, so I recommend reading Chicago Fire writer Jeff Crandall's reports from last year where he gave a play-by-play of how the draw went down each round. But the simplest way I can explain it is when they have an odd number of teams or too many MLS teams in a particular region, they do a coin flip, or a series of coin flips to determine which team has to make a long road trip, which is how the Galaxy ended up with the Carolina RailHawks last year.
INSIDER: Will players be cup-tied for the LA Galaxy if they play for a LA Galaxy II during the tournament?
HAKALA: Yes, but only if you played in the tournament proper for a particular team. Qualifying doesn’t count.
INSIDER: LA Galaxy II will face Cal FC in their opening game, what do you know about them and how they’ve been performing?
HAKALA: One of the great things -- or awful things, if you're the opponent -- is that many of these amateur clubs are relative unknowns year after year. There's often a lot of turnover and even if players are on the roster may not show up on gameday for one reason or another. Sometimes guys can't get time off of work -- this is how things can be at the amateur level. But as far as Cal FC goes, we know that Michael Friedman and Nick Webster will be involved, they are going to put a solid team together. I'm sure a lot of up and coming players will notice that many of the players from Cal FC's run in 2012 are now playing professionally, so they might see this as a great audition for a potential pro career. The short answer is "I don't know" because I haven't seen their final roster yet. The team you qualify with doesn't have to be the same team you play in the tournament with so they could have added a lot of talent since they stunned Doxa Italia in the USASA Region IV qualifying game back in December. In fact, they were holding tryouts recently, inviting players to help them make another Open Cup run.
INSIDER: Galaxy II have done exceptionally well in USL PRO to date, is there a precedent of USL PRO teams doing well in the competition?
HAKALA: USL Pro is the Division 3 professional level in the American soccer pyramid and they have had a strong track record over the years. Teams from this level of play have eliminated 33 teams from Division 1 and 2 since 1996. One of the biggest success stories was the San Francisco Bay Seals in 1997, who nearly reached the final, but fell 2-1 to DC United in the semis. 2007 was a big year as a pair of Division 3 clubs reached the quarterfinals. It was the beginning of a trend because since that year, at least one Division 3 club has reached the Round of 8 every year since. The Harrisburg City Islanders have upset four MLS teams and the 1995 Open Cup champion Richmond Kickers, who reached the semifinals in 2011, have three MLS upsets on its resume.
INSIDER: The LA Galaxy are saying that they’re going to put a considerable attention to the U.S. Open Cup, how do you think that they can perform?
HAKALA: It's no secret that the Galaxy don't value the US Open Cup as much as other teams. Bruce Arena has made it pretty clear that he isn't a big fan, and the team's recent performances, and the teams they've put out on the field, have reflected that. It's no coincidence that their last positive Open Cup run happened in 2006 under Frank Yallop when they lost to the Chicago Fire in the final. The following year was when David Beckham arrived and they took on 'Super Club' status. I would assume that has something to do with it. Since they were runners-up in 2006, they didn't qualify twice (2008, 2009) and they are 2-5-0 with three losses to lower division teams.
I certainly don't blame MLS teams for putting out 2nd string teams in the early rounds of Open Cup play. Top division teams around the world do that in domestic cup competitions, and there's a busy schedule to balance. But as far as the Galaxy are concerned, even if they rested their main stars, there seems to be, at least in my opinion, enough depth on the roster to avoid an early round upset. I understand he was frustrated that the coin flips didn't go his way and they had to travel to the east coast again, but I imagine that Bruce Arena not making the trip to North Carolina didn't help motivate his team.
INSIDER: Do you believe that they could get placed alongside the Carolina RailHawks again?
HAKALA: The odds of that happening are pretty rare, but never say never. There's a record number of teams this year, so the chances of them landing the RailHawks again are pretty slim.
INSIDER: As someone who has watched the US Open Cup more than anyone, what is the makeup of teams that win this tournament?
HAKALA: By and large, the teams that win have a deep roster and a little bit of luck. I think that's usually the case with cup competitions around the world. With every team having to balance a league schedule, injuries and everything else, you'll need a deep bench and a few favorable bounces to get through all of that.”