On to the next one.
The first U.S. Open Cup in match in LAFC history wasn't necessarily one for the highlight reels, but a job done just the same. Diego Rossi will go down in the record books as the first LAFC goal scorer in U.S. Open Cup history. Latif Blessing following close behind with a goal of his own less than five minutes later to complete the 2-0 scoreline.
The win moves LAFC on to the Round of 16 and one step close to the Open Cup trophy. Here are the takeaways from LAFC's first Open Cup win in Club history:
Trouble Breaking Down The Bunker
Despite a lion's share of the possession in the first 45 minutes, LAFC found very few openings in the Fresno FC defense. Credit to Fresno in that span though. They were resolute in their two banks of four, kept the space between the midfield and backline tight, and got a lot of work from their forwards.
But... (you knew there was a "but" coming) LAFC definitely could have done better. And Bob Bradley admitted as much after the match. For me, it all stemmed from the movement. There needed to be a concerted effort to find that extra yard of space. With narrow margins, you've got to look for starting points where you can get on the ball and keep ball moving to displace defenders.
As the half wore on, LAFC seemed to find their feet but early on it was LAFC consistently running into a wall of Fresno defenders.
Fresno's Physicality On Display
Adding to LAFC's inability to find space was the physical play of Fresno. They had big bodies all over the pitch, and they weren't afraid to mix it up. It seemed to stun the Black & Gold early on.
Walker And Dejan Hold Their Own
But speaking of Fresno's physicality, LAFC's center backs were up to the challenge. Walker Zimmerman and Dejan Jaković battled through constant challenges from Fresno's Christian Chaney and Renato Bustamante. The ability to step and break up play frustrated any opportunity Fresno had at mounting a counter.
All around a strong display from both players in the absence of captain Laurent Ciman.
Get The First, Get The Second
Rossi's decisive final touch on the first LAFC goal may have just trickled beyond the goal line, but it opened up the flood gates for LAFC. Five minutes later, Calum Mallace found a channel through the heart of the Fresno defense, leading to Latif Blessing's goal. And from there, chances came quick and often.
Unlucky to not get a third, but two was enough.
Playing a lower division side with nothing to lose, coming off a four-match winless streak, and just a few days after 100-degree heat in Dallas, getting a result is all that matter tonight. That's the beauty of a one-off competition. And in a tournament like the Open Cup, you've got to win ugly at times.
End of the day, job done and LAFC is going through to the next round.