The penultimate step of a historic journey, LAFC's U.S. Open Cup semifinal in Houston is probably the biggest match to date in the Club history. Especially for a Club within reach of its first bit of silverware in its inaugural season.
To get here, LAFC defeated two USL sides, one MLS team, mounted a late comeback, and had to withstand one formal protest with U.S. Soccer. It's been a wild run so far in the Open Cup, but the Club would hate for it to end a step short of competing for that trophy. So let's take a look at the U.S. Open Cup semifinal between LAFC and the Houston Dynamo:
Where To Watch/Listen
LAFC At Houston Dynamo, August 8 at 5:30pm PT
TV: Streaming at LAFC.com/Open-Cup
Radio: ESPN Radio App
The Dynamo defeated defending champion Sporting KC at home 4-2 to reach the semifinal. Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas each bagged a brace in the match after Houston went down in just the second minute of the match.
What The Team Is Saying
Bob Bradley on what it takes to reach a final: "Semifinals are still about the mentality. Obviously, everyone wants to reach a final. The game, we expect to be competitive. It will still be warm and humid, but we got to get it right on our end."
Walker Zimmerman on his team's focus heading into Wednesday: "We know the challenge that is ahead of us, but we're excited for it. A chance to play in our first semifinal, opportunity to appear in our first final, and win our first trophy. So I think everyone is excited."
LAFC Projected Starting XI
(3-4-3): Tyler Miller; Danilo Silva, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman; Steven Beitashour, Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Jordan Harvey; Carlos Vela, Marco Ureña, Diego Rossi.
What To Watch For
Who's Healthy, Who's Not: Both Walker Zimmerman and Adama Diomande left in the second half of Sunday's match against New York Red Bulls with some form of injury. Zimmerman, we were told was cramping, so it would appear it is just a temporary measure. Diomande pulled up pretty abruptly on a sequence in the midst of a scoring chance, which makes me think his injury is a bit more serious. But he did return to the bench after going back to the locker room for some treatment, so who knows? Both are players with ready replacements in Danilo Silva and Marco Ureña, but they've been key cogs in LAFC's machine over the past couple of months. We'll have to wait and see if they can go or not in the semifinal.
Holding A Lead: It's a reoccurring theme, until it isn't. No one really wants to talk about it, and I suspect no one has a definitive answer. In the course of 90 minutes, there are so many potential defining moments of a match. For LAFC to do so well in the early moments and not in the late ones does make you scratch your head a bit. Either way, it's one of those walls the squad either has to climb over or breakthrough. If there was one place players and coaches would be particularly focused after past experiences, it'd be Houston.
A Final On The Line: The quality of semifinals, in my opinion, is so much greater than finals for the most part. Players recognize their proximity to a trophy without being intimidated by it. And often, that results in teams killing themselves just to reach the final, as opposed to holding back in fear of giving away the trophy. Whatever this match turns out to be, in the end, it's an opportunity. It's still part of the journey, but its a chance to thrust your team into the spotlight and a chance to make history.