There are no moral victories in sports. Are there lessons? Sure. The scoreline does the teaching. The price of admission in competition is losing. You might leave a sport as the greatest of all time, but you’ll still know that feeling. Winning is never guaranteed.
But man, that was a lot of fun.
If you were at BMO Stadium on Tuesday night, you witnessed a rare sight. LAFC doesn’t lose much, if ever, at home. And when they do, it doesn’t usually feel like that. Especially not a loss to the Galaxy.
There was a real sense of pride in the stands and, dare I say, on social media among LAFC fans. Yes, the Black & Gold crashed out of the Open Cup Round of 16 for the second year in a row. Yes, it was at the hands of a bitter rival, again. But this performance was different.
And there are bigger prizes to chase on the horizon.
Here are the Takeaways from LAFC’s 2-0 loss to the Galaxy in the Open Cup Round of 16:
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Hard To Tell
Don’t adjust your TV sets. Your eyes weren’t deceiving you.
The Galaxy got the better of LAFC on the scoresheet thanks to goals resulting from individual moments of skill, but the two teams played pretty much even the rest of the night. Even if you were watching the game closely, it was difficult at times to tell which was the team with most of its MLS regulars and two Designated Players on the pitch versus the side comprised of reserves and second-team players.
LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo maintained seven of the starters from the win against Monterey Bay in the previous round. In that match, a side probably better identified as LAFC2, struggled at times. They spent much long periods their own half, defending for dear life against a USL Championship side. That wasn’t the case against the Galaxy.
The first 45 minutes were thrilling and open. LAFC gave just as much as they got. They attacked with pace and quick interchanges, pinning the Galaxy in their own half for stretches. When they lost the ball, they harassed and swarmed the Galaxy ball carriers. It was both effort and skill. Ideas and grit. And it was a lot of fun to watch.
If you took the names off the jerseys and changed the colors, I think you’d be hard-pressed to pick out the team of kids and the team with something to lose.
It’s a cruel game sometimes. Football is a sport where failure is the odds-on outcome. Success i.e. scoring is rare.
The difference at this level isn’t as big as you’d think. Every player that took that pitch tonight is talented. They spent their entire lives climbing a proverbial mountain to become professionals. But that next level presents itself many times throughout a match as a molehill that even the best players stumble over time and time again.
After the match, Steve Cherundolo put it best.
“I was very proud of the players who were on the field tonight. They had a spirited, professional, disciplined performance. I thought they did very well,” said the LAFC head coach. “Look at the stats after the game, it was pretty equal.
“I think we all saw the difference in the game was a few moments of clarity and quality that the Galaxy had on the field, and we have players in those moments who just aren’t ready yet but have very bright futures.”
A Quick Shoutout
Hard for me to pick out specific players in this match because it really was a team effort. But going back to my notes, one name kept appearing: Nathan Ordaz.
I’ll admit, I’m slow to heap praise on young players. Maybe I’ve been burned in the past. Or maybe, I’ve spent too much time raving about a player only to have a coach or scout tell me I should pump the brakes.
Ordaz is a player that excites a lot of LAFC fans. I don’t blame them. The fourth Homegrown signing in LAFC history burst onto the scene by propelling the LAFC U19s to the United Premier Soccer League 2021 semifinal and then scoring in an LAFC preseason match in 2022.
I’ve had the chance to watch Ordaz across a few levels and this was his most complete performance against probably the highest level of competition he’s faced.
Against the Galaxy, Ordaz played the full 90 minutes. He led LAFC in shots on target from open play with two and created two chances for teammates.
Playing predominately in the No. 9 role, Ordaz was notably active in his movement and willingness to receive passes. In the 7th minute, he showcased his footwork in tight spaces with a tidy turn at the top of the Galaxy penalty area before forcing a save that led to a corner kick.
Throughout the first half, he was a ready outlet in offensive transition moments, progressing the ball safely into dangerous areas. Off the ball, he pressed Galaxy defenders and nearly engineered a goal by forcing Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann into a bad touch right to the feet of Stipe Biuk at the top of the box.
Ordaz tapered off a bit in the second half after the Galaxy scored in quick succession but with the amount of energy he and his teammates expended in the first 45 that was to be expected. All in all, it was a good performance for the 19-year-old to build off as he looks to stay in Steve Cherundolo’s attacking rotation.