It wasn’t long before California United Strikers FC informed the Galaxy that Wednesday’s US Open Cup game would not be a walk in the park.
The National Independent Soccer Association’s third division club took a 20-minute lead in the Round of 32 match at Championship Stadium in Great Park in Irvine.
In the end, however, things started to swing in the Galaxy’s favor and thanks to Owen Lambe’s goal in the 80th minute and a second converted penalty from Dejan Joveljic, the MLS club held on to a 3-2 win to advance to the Round of 16.
“They definitely put us to work tonight,” said Galaxy coach Greg Vanney. “It was definitely helpful for guys who needed some good competitive minutes and pushed their fitness and work pace.
“It was an opportunity for guys to be challenged. These games are always tricky and you have to be willing to adapt or come up with something and they’ve given us a good run.”
Cal United only made things interesting late when Kevin Garcia Lopez scored in the 88th minute.
The draw of the Round of 16 is scheduled for Thursday at 5.30 pm, those matches will be played in about two weeks. The Galaxy’s potential opponents are LAFC, San Jose Earthquakes and Sacramento Republic (USL).
Lambe, who joined the first team on a short-term loan from Galaxy II, scored the game winner on a pass from Rayan Raveloson.
“It feels great to get the start and finish the 90 minutes and help the team take the win,” Lambe said. “Means a lot to me. We knew these guys would give everything. It’s a cup game and it means a lot to them, a good environment, they fought hard for it.”
Minutes later, Kevin Cabral was charged with a foul, giving the Galaxy a second penalty, which Joveljic upped and converted for what appeared to be a commanding 3-1 lead.
Garcia Lopez gave the NISA club a little bit of hope later on, but that was as close as it could get.
It could have been easy for the Galaxy, but that’s rarely the case lately.
Early in the first half, the Galaxy found no resistance, especially down the right wing, but couldn’t get past Cal United goalkeeper Jean Gamain Antoine.
Cal United opened the scoring in the 20th minute as Omar Nuno beat the defense with a perfect cross pass that Shinya Kadono ran on and pushed past Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. Kadono was an MLS SuperDraft roster in the third round in 2019 by DC United.
Later, the hosts almost took a 2-0 lead, but were unable to convert it on a header that was close to goal.
The Galaxy finally got on the board in the 45th minute when Joveljic scored a penalty, which he converted to send the game into halftime at 1-1.
In the second half, the Galaxy appeared to camp in the offensive half of the field, but was unable to find the final pass to unlock the Strikers’ defenses.
Galaxy coach Greg Vanney hinted on Tuesday that there would be a tough roster rotation and that’s what he did, making eight changes from Sunday’s MLS road win over Austin FC. The trio of Douglas Costa, Raheem Edwards and Chicharito Hernandez was not available. Meanwhile, Cal United started with three teenagers.
The Galaxy will resume the MLS game at home against FC Dallas on Saturday.