Training Report

Notes from Training | 2024 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal

A postponement and an early flight home from storm-struck Houston afforded LAFC a chance to focus on its Open Cup date with New Mexico United

LAFC Players Standing After Training IMG 200306

After Hurricane Beryl forced LAFC and its opponent last Sunday, Houston Dynamo FC, to indefinitely postpone their match in Houston, the Black & Gold returned to Los Angeles late Sunday night and to the LAFC Performance Center on Tuesday morning, where they trained and talked about the weather.

“It was scary a little bit for me, because I'm not American,” LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta said of the storm that damaged the roof of NRG Stadium (where the NFL’s Houston Texans play) and has left millions of Houstonians without power. “When you hear, ‘That’s a hurricane,’ you feel like, wow, what is that? Is that something big?

“Thanks to God, we came back good. But we wanted to play, we wanted to play to continue winning games in the good phase that we have right now.”

Head coach Steve Cherundolo, whose team hasn’t lost in its last 12 outings across all competitions, said both clubs wanted to take the field Sunday night. “But we were thankful to get out in time before things got pretty bad,” Cherundolo said. “And looking at pictures, it did get bad. So, we were happy to land safely in LA and to prepare for this match tomorrow.”

Rescheduling the Houston game for an as-yet-undetermined date has allowed LAFC to rest its legs a bit. But, Cherundolo’s side is still faced with playing four games in the next 11 days, starting with its Wednesday night matchup with New Mexico United in the Quarterfinal Round of the 2024 U.S. Open Cup.

A six-year-old club from the USL Championship, New Mexico United sits in first place in that league’s Western Conference, with a record of 11W-1L-4D. The Albuquerque-based side’s last game was a 2-0 home win over Orange County SC (of Irvine, Calif.) on July 3.

3 WINS FROM A TROPHY

Cherundolo said that the Houston postponement gave his players “a little more recovery than they’re used to, and we got the kinks out today and should be ready for tomorrow.”

“No matter what the competition is, we want to win,” Cherundolo continued. “And it just so happens for this particular match and hopefully the next one, we’ll be in a good spot physically to field a very strong team.”

Cherundolo added that Hugo Lloris, recently named an MLS All Star, will likely start in goal against New Mexico United after his backup, Abraham Romero, was slated to start in Houston.

New Mexico United, which plays at the second-tier level where Cherundolo coached prior to becoming LAFC’s manager in 2022, is “a team that is performing this year, in first place in their division,” Cherundolo said. “A physical team, a team with some MLS experience, and very clear in the way they play. A direct team.; so, it's not going to be easy for us tomorrow and I expect a rested New Mexico, a fit New Mexico, and a team that will put everything on the line to advance.”

Atuesta pointed out that LAFC is “very close” to the U.S. Open Cup Final. “We are fighting for the title and we have to take it with the biggest seriousness, as if it were the MLS playoffs, because it is a title. We have to play to win and if one does not play very seriously, does not play with hunger, these games can become difficult. You can lose a chance at a title if you are too confident. So, you have to go with everything.”

Fellow LAFC midfielder Timmy Tillman, a veteran of cup competitions in his native Germany, said that from New Mexico’s perspective “it’s a nice opportunity for them to show, ‘Okay, we are also a good team even if we play in a lower division.’ And it’s a chance for us to say, ‘Hey, we have to prove we are a better team than them. We have to show ourselves’.”

MÁS DE EDUARD

Atuesta, the only remaining member of LAFC’s original roster back in 2018, has gained a unique viewpoint of the club’s progress. The Colombian midfielder left LAFC to play in Brazil’s top division from 2021 to 2023, before returning to start 20 matches for the Black & Gold so far in 2024. “It’s different now, different players, different coach, different style of play,” Atuesta said, “but the same ambition to win. Before, we were a very new team, trying to break records, to play well and to write the very first history of the club. Now the team knows how to win, and we expect to keep winning more titles.”

LAFC hosts New Mexico United in the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on Wednesday, July 10, at BMO Stadium. The match kicks off at 8:00 p.m. PT and is available for free on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, as well as on 710 AM ESPN LA, the ESPN LA app, and 980 AM La Mera Mera.

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