LAFC's persistence pays off in US Open Cup win over Portland Timbers

LOS ANGELES—Just after the half-hour mark during Wednesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal between LAFC and Portland Timbers, which finished in a 3-2 win for the home side, Carlos Vela swung a ball back into the box and Marco Ureña leapt up alongside his Costa Rican counterpart David Guzman in an attempt to head the ball into Jeff Attinella’s net.

The ball went in and moments later — after the nearly 18,000 in the stands erupted with joy to see the home side finally ahead after playing over two hours of scoreless football against the disciplined Timbers stretching back to Sunday’s league meeting between the sides — the stadium announced that Ureña had been the goal scorer.

For an instant, Ureña, who had been so instrumental in LAFC’s early sizzling attacking form to start the inaugural campaign, was finally awarded with a goal the striker has long deserved, his first of the season.

The truth, of course, was that it was Guzman who’d headed the ball into the Timbers net.

After a great back-and-forth contest between two sides who knew a deadlock on this occasion was impossible, Ureña finally got his goal — a nonchalant, almost dance-step-like flick following an off-target shot by defender Jordan Harvey to put LAFC ahead 3-1.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Ureña said in the postgame press conference when asked how it feels to finally score at Banc of California Stadium.

“I got injured in my first game,” he said, referring to the Banc of California opening game against Seattle in late April where he suffered a facial injury that required surgery before going to the World Cup with Costa Rica. “It was tough. I feel the support from the guys.”

Ureña’s strike ended up being the match winner, sending his side into the U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

“Marcos, it meant a lot to him,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley of the striker. “I said inside that his teammates, they all love him, he’s a really good guy.”

It was a fair reward for a striker who has become LAFC’s go-to man for all the unglamorous setup work to keep the attack potent since the start of the season.

“I’m really happy about it and don’t have words to say about it,” said Ureña. “It means a lot to me.”

After Vytas pegged another back for the Timbers to make it 3-2, the home side continued to press for a fourth goal, prohibiting Portland from committing too many numbers forward.

LAFC were able to see out the game in the end, showing signs they’ve learned from past games where they’d given up late leads.

“Seeing Carlos [Vela], [Adama Diomande], and Benny [Feilhaber] be smart about holding onto the ball and playing it into the corner a little bit, it’s a good way to finish the game,” said Bradley. “I think the guys know that we haven’t done that well enough so tonight is something that we feel good about.”

With just four teams left in the tournament, LAFC are closing on their first trophy as a club. Despite being an expansion team, with Bradley in charge and several players with Open Cup-winning experience on the roster, could LAFC even be favorite to take the prize?

They may not have been ready to weigh in on a possible "favorite" tag, but Vela made it clear the team is committed to going for the title.

“I’m really happy to be here and help my teammates," he said. "I feel we are close to winning a title and we are working hard to be there and win it. We are working hard to be where we are and chase that title. This team dreams high and I’m happy to be here.”