Everybody loves an underdog.
Actually, let me rephrase that. Everybody loves an underdog until their team is on the wrong end of the underdog's story. Mark-Anthony Kaye and his teammates are determined not to let that happen to LAFC.
"We have to match their intensity. It’s an obvious one. And me coming from the other side, I know it. Because I know that all the USL teams are gunning to prove to the MLS teams that they are capable of playing at the same level. You can’t take anything for granted," Kaye said of LAFC's opponent in the U.S. Open Cup fourth round.
On Wednesday, LAFC hosts USL side Fresno FC in the first Open Cup game in Club history. Featuring a combination of amateur and professional teams from both the lower and upper divisions of US soccer, the Open Cup's knockout format has seen its fair share of upsets in the past.
"For USL teams, it’s a big, big tournament because you have a chance to showcase your players but also what your team can do as an organization," Kaye said. "You look at Cincinnati last year, who had a good run in it, and now they are in the MLS. It’s just being able to compete on the same level as the MLS players."
On Tuesday, Kaye's former USL team Louisville City defeated its MLS opponent New England 3-2. The combination of having nothing to lose and the opportunity to showcase their skills at a higher level makes the lower division sides in the tournament very dangerous in Kaye's estimation. While from the MLS side, teams are expected to win. It's why Kaye knows LAFC can't take its opponent on Wednesday lightly.
"That’s the thing. That’s why it’s harder. When I was with Louisville, we played a PDL team and we were meant to win. If your team’s not on, anything can happen. The amount of times, even in Europe, that you see a lower division team beat a top tier team, it’s just because of mentality. It’s not that the lower team had better players, it’s just on that day, they wanted it more.
"In the Open Cup, you have to go out there like it’s a cup final every game."