Major League Soccer is on an international break, but the U.S. Open Cup is down to 16 teams including the San Jose Earthquakes. For those new to American soccer, the U.S. Open Cup is one of oldest sports tournaments in the country having first been contested in 1914 and is open to any team that plays within the American soccer pyramid established by the United States Soccer Federation. Basically, any team that plays for a league sanctioned by USSF theoretically has a chance to win this trophy, and a win gives a team a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. If your pub team is ever going to get any national glory or attention they are going to do it in this tournament. The San Jose Earthquakes are no pub team, and they have made it clear that they are taking this tournament seriously and they fully expect to be competing in the final.
To continue their journey, Matias Almeyda and the Quakes are going to have to do something they have struggled with in the last several years, win on the road. Not only do they have to go out of the comfort of Avaya Stadium but standing in the way of the Quakes first-ever U.S. Open Cup is a goliath named Los Angeles Football Club. But instead of a javelin, this giant’s most potent weapon is a forward by the name of Carlos Vela, and they are ready to unleash him on the Quakes depleted defensive unit. Matias Almeyda understands the Quakes are going to have to play a perfect game to have a chance at staying in this tournament stating, “In reality, we have to play our game and be superior in every way. We have to have control of the game and watch out for players that pose a big threat like [Carlos] Vela and their attackers.”
Even a perfect execution of El Pelado’s plan may not be enough as the Quakes have yet to beat LAFC in a competitive match since the team from So Cal entered the league last season. Last weeks gutsy comeback win against the Sacramento Republic has the Quakes feeling good about themselves, but the three goals given up brings us the question of whether a defense that is missing Harold Cummings, Nick Lima and Anibal Godoy can keep LAFC and its powerful offense off the board. A clean-sheet is a tall order, so maybe all the defense needs to do is prevent LAFC from scoring enough for Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza to keep their connection going and put some balls in the back of the net.
A win in Los Angeles will get the Quakes to the semi-finals of the U.S. Open cup for the first time since 2017 when they lost to Sporting Kansas City on penalty kicks. While the Quakes hold a 17-14 all-time record and have a goal differential of +20 that is the farthest they have ever gone in the tournament. As I stated earlier the Cup one of the ways MLS teams can earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League and the way the Quakes season has gone this seems like the most likely way for the Quakes to not only win some hardware but also qualify for the biggest club tournament on the continent.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM tomorrow at Banc of California Stadium and will be streaming on ESPN+.