Major League Soccer has paused its schedule for the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will feature 59 players from MLS rosters. But that doesn’t mean the teams are off. All 21 U.S.-based clubs, including the Galaxy and LAFC, will begin play this week in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup — at 106, the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the country.
LAFC has the tougher assignment of the two Southland teams, traveling to Utah to meet MLS rival Real Salt Lake on Tuesday night. The Galaxy will stay home to meet the fourth-tier Orange County FC on Wednesday night at the Dignity Health Sports Park track stadium — where the Galaxy’s USL affiliate, Galaxy II, plays.
Real knocked LAFC out of the MLS playoffs last season, and now Bob Bradley’s team can return the favor by eliminating RSL from the Open Cup. That could be difficult, though, as LAFC is missing four players because of the Gold Cup.
“It’s different for different teams,” said Bradley, whose team leads the MLS standings. “We understand that we’ll be missing some guys.”
That’s also created some opportunities, though. Although Bradley expects to use many of the regulars he still has, with Tyler Miller away with the U.S. national team, Pablo Sisniega will get his first start in goal for LAFC. Salvadoran attacker Rodolfo Zelaya could also see his first action of the season.
The Galaxy lost fewer players to international duty. But one who is gone, Mexican midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, has been the team’s best player in the first half of the season. Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s lineup will likely include a mix of regulars and reserves, although forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to get the night off.
OCFC, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League, is coached by national team legend Paul Caligiuri, whose goal in a 1989 match in Trinidad and Tobago qualified the U.S. for its first World Cup in 50 years. OCFC upset two USL teams to reach the fourth round of the Open Cup.