The LA Galaxy entered their 2016 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday with a hybrid lineup, and it worked, as they left Portland with a 1-0 win and a berth in the quarterfinals.
Head coach Bruce Arena opted for several youngsters, including LA Galaxy II mainstays Clement Diop in-goal and Raul Mendiola and Jack McBean in attack, to go with veterans like AJ DeLaGarza, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme and Jeff Larentowicz, and a canny game plan unfolded to virtual perfection on the night.
What helped matters was that the Galaxy got on the board very early at Providence Park, with another young attacker, Emmanuel Boateng, sending a low cross into the box as Mendiola made a late run into the box. The Homegrown midfielder took a one-time shot that beat another player with USL experience, Timbers goalkeeper Wade Hamilton, in just the fifth minute to give LA the lead.
From there, the Timbers, who also used a lineup blend of starters and reserves, had the control in the match, but could not find the equalizer, repeatedly shooting just off target or forcing Diop to make a stop. Even with three first-choice players — Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi and Lucas Melano — coming on in the second half to provide reinforcements in attack, LA’s defense remained stout, and the hosts could not come through with a goal.
The result puts the Galaxy in the final eight of the tournament, the only Southern California team remaining in the competition, of course, and with an Open Cup date against the Seattle Sounders on July 20 at StubHub Center. LA have not advanced past the quarterfinal round since Arena became coach of the team in 2008, and Seattle have been the most successful Open Cup team in recent years. That said, if the youngsters given a rare chance to shine can perform like they did in Portland, perhaps the Galaxy’s run will continue.