The U.S. Open Cup can be a challenge for MLS clubs playing lower-division opponents.
If they win, well they’re supposed to since they have the better players and the bigger payrolls. If they lose, it’s an embarrassing result for the same reasons.
That left the Los Angeles Football Club in a no-win situation Wednesday when it played Fresno FC, a first-year club in the second-tier United Soccer League.
Because although Fresno may be a second-division team, it’s got top-tier talent, with an international roster of former MLS players and others from teams in Brazil, Sweden, Scotland, Canada and Ghana.
So it was no embarrassment that LAFC needed to work hard for a 2-0 win in front of 7,500 at Banc of California Stadium. Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing scored the second-half goals that will send LAFC to the tournament’s round of 16 against an opponent to be determined Thursday.
“Experienced guys,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said of Fresno. “It’s not like playing a team of players that are in awe of MLS teams. These guys have all been in and around MLS level with different teams. They kept going because they love to play.
“So when you play against them you know it won’t be an easy game. It takes a while to start to open them up a little bit.”
LAFC’s victory may prove a costly one since it lost forward Adama Diomande after he took a knee to the head in first-half stoppage time.
Bradley said Diomande, who scored his first MLS goal last weekend in Dallas, will undergo further evaluation Thursday.
The injury also forced Bradley to cancel a night off for Rossi, who is second among outfield players in MLS minutes played. Rossi wound up getting the scoring started in the 53rd minute, deflecting a shot in off goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, who played for four teams in 10 MLS seasons.
Blessing doubled the lead three minutes later. Tyler Miller made only two saves in recording the shutout.
“The Open Cup is never easy,” Bradley said of the 94-team knockout tournament, the oldest soccer competition in the country.
“A team like Fresno, experienced, well-coached, they’re prepared. … It took a little while. But it’s good to move on.”