VENTURA, Calif. – Seven MLS teams bit the dust in the third round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday, but Chivas USA were not among the fallen – the Rojiblancos defeated USL Premier Development League side Ventura County Fusion, 1-0.
But that didn’t mean a strong Chivas side wasn’t tested.
The MLS outfit went through thanks to Cesar Romero’s goal in the 13th minute, but after the goal, the Fusion created several dangerous chances. With the PDL side pushing for the equalizer, goalkeeper Tim Melia was repeatedly called into action to preserve the result. And respond he did, making several key saves that catapulted his side into the fourth round of the Open Cup.
And even though the performance left something to be desired, all that mattered was the result.
“In a single elimination tournament, the most important thing is to win and these games are tough,” said head coach Robin Fraser after the match. “The 'underdog' really treats it like it’s as a huge game and certainly we need to as well, but as you can tell by tonight with seven teams losing in the MLS, these are difficult games.
“So to come out and win and move onto the next round is the most important thing.”
Fraser stated prior to the Ventura match that the club was planning to put an added emphasis on the tournament – notable for a team that has only advanced past its first game once in its history – and it showed on Tuesday as he placed nine players in the starting XI who have started for the Chivas’ first team at some this season.
“We think this is an important tournament,” said left back Jorge Villafaña. “That's why we put in the big guns.”
With their ticket booked for the fourth round, the Rojiblancos will now face an opponent that few expected to advance. Rather than face the Galaxy in an Open Cup version of the SuperClásico at the Home Depot Center next week, Chivas must fly across the country to Cary, N.C., and face off against the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks.
Although the Galaxy’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of the RailHawks sent shockwaves around the league, Ryan Smith admitted that the unpredictability of these tournaments is what makes them valuable.
“That’s what we expected [to face LA], but this is like the FA Cup back home,” the English-born winger. “You don’t know who’s going to win because it’s who turns up on the day, but I’m glad LA are out.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.