Since the inception of Major League Soccer 10 years ago, the Los Angeles Galaxy are the only club to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs every season. But despite all their regular season success, the Galaxy have only captured two domestic trophies, having captured both the MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup once each.
On Wednesday night, the Galaxy have a chance to get one step closer to another honor, when they take on the Minnesota Thunder of the USL First Division in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup at The Home Depot Center.
The Thunder have been the giant-killers of the U.S. Open Cup thus far, as they are bidding to become just the second non-MLS team to win the nation's oldest competition since the beginning of the league.
They've defeated three MLS teams on their way to the meeting with the Galaxy, and a year ago, the Thunder sent the Galaxy to their earliest-ever departure from the Open Cup. For those reasons, the Galaxy are not taking their opponents lightly.
"We talked about that, not underestimating them," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "They've proved they belong in the semis. (Underestimating Minnesota) is something we're definitely not going to do."
Winning trophies is priority one in Los Angeles, said Doug Hamilton, Galaxy president and general manager. Several MLS teams consider the Open Cup as a lesser event, choosing to rest several first-team players and focusing on the MLS league campaign. That's simply not an option according to Hamilton.
"I have made it perfectly clear: This is a very important competition," said Hamilton. "There's only two domestic titles we can compete for. This is one of them, so to ceremoniously discard one of them is asinine to me."
The biggest challenge facing the Galaxy might be lack of familiarity with their opponents. The Galaxy doesn't see the Thunder on a week-in, week-out basis and USL games are rarely televised. Still the Galaxy have done the legwork necessary to prepare.
"We've done our homework," said Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson. "We know enough people in the (USL First Division) to give us a good feel for how they've been playing in the league. We've contacted the other MLS teams and we've gotten videotape on them as well. I don't think there'll be any surprises [Wednesday] night."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.