So many highs, and yet, so many lows. This match was not a classic by any stretch. It was two teams giving absolutely all they had to reach their first U.S. Open Cup final though. And in that regard, it was a thriller.
For 75 minutes, the Houston Dyanmo looked in complete control of this semifinal. After going behind early, they counterpunched right away, then frustrated LAFC's attack, and finally threw two haymakers of their own. While LAFC looked down, Diego Rossi made sure they weren't out.
- HOU 3 (7) - 3 (6) LAFC aet
- 6' Diego Rossi
- 12' Andrew Wenger
- 25' Mauro Manotas
- 75' Memo Rodriguez
- 78' Diego Rossi
- 90'+5' Diego Rossi
To extra time, and then penalties, we went. But eventually, there was only heartache - a historic Open Cup run ended on a missed penalty.
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's shootout loss to the Dynamo in the Open Cup semifinal:
No one outside of Houston watched it live, but Diego Rossi got LAFC off to a flying start six minutes in.
Getting the opening goal so early should have calmed some of the nerves, and maybe it did, but Houston wasted no time pulling level in the 12th minute - another goal that was unfortunately missed, as the live stream picked up in about the 16th minute.
What was interesting as we finally got a chance to watch the match were the tactics of both sides. LAFC were very conservative and deferred much of the possession to Houston. To me, it was a bit of cat and mouse, as the Dynamo love nothing more than to turn teams over and run the counter. Setting up a lower block seemed to have the desired effect early as the Dynamo really just knocking the ball around for long stretches.
The Second Goal Changes Everything
The match hinged on this goal for a few reasons. First, LAFC's ceding of possession was pretty effective, although unfamiliar to the Black & Gold. The Dynamo's second goal came on one of the few times LAFC pressed, and from there, flipped the tactics of both sides.
Off the goal kick, Benny Feilhaber sprints to contest after the first pass, but LAFC aren't tight enough to their marks around Feilhaber's press. Houston breakout easily, and for the first time, Alberth Ellis finds himself in the type of space he likes and with players trying to recover. Although LAFC looked to be in a decent spot, with the backline's eyes on Ellis, the Dynamo winger picks out the back-shoulder run of Mauro Manotas and Houston are head. From there, the Dynamo can get back to the style of play they are more familiar with, which is clogging the middle in their half of the pitch and turning teams over to start the counterattack, and LAFC are forced to try and break them down.
LAFC Sloppy In Possession
The pitch looked a bit worse for wear out there, but the stray passes.... oh, the stray passes! Combine that with so many players pondering on the ball for way too long, and you get a pretty good idea why LAFC struggled in this match. But credit to the Dynamo, they stacked the middle and swarmed any entry pass in that area. LAFC just lacked the execution and ideas to combine in those spaces to move the Dynamo around.
No Quit In Diego Rossi
The first goal was vintage Diego Rossi, getting behind the defense with an angled run and finishing nicely past the keeper. But the second and third were just sheer willpower from the Uruguayan.
In the last two matches, there hasn't been a better player in Black & Gold than Rossi, and he saved his team tonight. Also, it was a bit of history for Rossi, who seems to do this regularly for LAFC. To go with the first Open Cup goal in Club history, he now has the first Open Cup hat trick in LAFC history, and the first hat trick in the modern era (1995-present) of the Open Cup tournament.
So Close... So, So Close
If you were told that this team, in its inaugural season, would have a chance to go to a cup final with the captain taking the clinching penalty, you'd be kidding yourself if you said you wouldn't take it. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out the way the team, coaches, or fans would have wanted. And I am going to steal a line from Bob Bradley here, "that's football, man."
End of the day, the chance to reach a final is special. And you learn when you fail at that step. The players immediately went to pick up their captain Laurent Ciman, and Latif Blessing, who missed the final PK, after all was said and done. That kind of team spirit is something you can build on. It's been a rough stretch of matches as of late. But it's always been entertaining. This Club never sells you short.
It's time to return home and defend the Banc. It's time to finish the season strong.