The Cinderella run of the Minnesota Thunder faces its most difficult test yet, when they face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Victoria Street. The Galaxy felt the sting of going down to the Thunder a year ago - just as three MLS clubs have experienced this year - when they lost 1-0 in Minnesota in the fourth round. But this is rare atmosphere for the Thunder of the USL First Division, whose quarterfinal performance a year ago was their best-ever. The Galaxy have reached at least the semifinals in five of the seven times they've entered the competition, playing in the Final on two occasions (and winning one, in 2001).
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
QUARTERFINAL: The Galaxy dumped the San Jose Earthquakes out of the U.S. Open Cup for the fourth time ever, getting two goals from Herculez Gomez then surviving going a man down midway through the second half to hold on for a 2-1 victory. ... Gomez put the Galaxy ahead after just five minutes when a clearance out of the Quakes' defense was headed by Jovan Kirovski straight into the path of Gomez, who evaded a challenge from San Jose defender Danny Califf, and scored low to Jon Conway's right. ... Then in the 31st minute he scored a second goal that was a near carbon copy of the first. Kirovski was again the provider, as his through ball found Gomez in stride and he duly buried his shot past a diving Conway. ... The Quakes were thrown a lifeline in the 63rd minute when Todd Dunivant received a second caution, and in the 76th minute Ronald Cerritos nodded home Brian Mullan's cross to halve the deficit, but the Galaxy held on. ... Here's Sampson's team: Kevin Hartman, Troy Roberts, Tyrone Marshall, Pablo Chinchilla, Todd Dunivant, Ned Grabavoy (Cobi Jones 70), Peter Vagenas, Paulo Nagamura, Guillermo Ramirez, Jovan Kirovski (Ugo Ihemelu 67), Herculez Gomez (Ednaldo da Conceicao 83). ... The Galaxy have now eliminated the Quakes four times in the U.S. Open Cup (2000, 2001, 2002, 2005) including on penalties in 2001 and in extra time in 2002.
2005 U.S. OPEN CUP RUN: In their fourth-round match, the Galaxy dumped stadium-mates Chivas USA out of the U.S. Open Cup with a 5-2 triumph at The Home Depot Center's Track & Field Stadium. ... Douglas Sequeira gave Chivas a lead after just four minutes when he headed home a corner kick, but Cobi Jones pulled the Galaxy level eight minutes later when pumped a poor clearance home. Then Chivas again took the lead when Ramon Ramirez curled home a free kick on 20 minutes, but Joseph Ngwenya finished off a semi-breakaway to again draw the Galaxy even (36). Just before the break, Herculez Gomez again scored, picking off a pass before firing a long-range effort to give the Galaxy the lead. After squandering numerous chances throughout the second half, the Galaxy killed off the match with two late goals, Landon Donovan punishing a poor back pass (89) then Chris Albright finishing off the contest with a stoppage time strike.
IN THE OPEN CUP: For the first time in club history, the Galaxy were dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup in their opening match a year ago, losing 1-0 to the Minnesota Thunder (A-League) in the fourth round. It snapped a run of five consecutive appearances where they reached at least the semifinals, winning the 2001 Final against the New England Revolution but losing to the Columbus Crew the following year. ... The Galaxy have lost just five times in 20 Open Cup matches - two of those coming against Columbus Crew, once in the quarterfinals in 1999, and once in the 2002 final. The other two losses both came to the Fire, in the semifinals in both 2000 and 2003. Until last year, they of course had never lost to a lower-division side. ... Before '04, the Galaxy's shortest run in the Open Cup came in 1999, when a quarterfinal loss to the Columbus Crew followed a win against the San Diego Flash (A-League).
QUARTERFINAL: The Cinderella run of the USL First Division Thunder continued in the quarterfinals when they ended the bid of defending Open Cup champion Kansas City Wizards to be the first repeat winner in more than two decades ended with a 3-1 victory at Park University. ... Johnny Menyongar scored a pair of goals, one in each half, to send the Thunder through to their farthest ever advance in the Open Cup. In the 33rd minute he blasted a 16-yard drive to the left of a flailing K.C. 'keeper Will Hesmer, then four minutes after Shavar Thomas deflected a Menyongar shot into his own goal, the Minnesota striker was given space down the heart of the Kansas City defense and obliged with his second goal of the night. ... The Wizards pulled a goal back in the 71st minute through Ryan Pore, as Chris Klein played a looping ball to send Pore in alone on Minnesota' 'keeper Joe Warren and he trickled a shot home. ... Here's Buzz Lagos's team (3-5-2): Joe Warren; Chris Brunt, Chad Dombrowski, Nathan Knox; Freddy Juarez, Jay Alberts (Kiki Lara 93+), Matt Schmidt, Godfrey Tenoff (Tighe Dombrowski 77), Jeff Matteo; Johnny Menyonger (Aaron Paye 80), Melvin Tarley (Kevin Friedland 88).
2005 OPEN CUP RUN: In the fourth round, the Thunder continued their giant-killing ways in the U.S. Open Cup, dumping the Colorado Rapids out of the competition with a 4-1 victory at James E. Griffin Stadium in St. Paul, Minn. ... Melvin Tarley scored all four goals for the Thunder, giving him six goals against MLS clubs in the competition. Tarley gave the Thunder the lead in the 38th minute when he beat Joe Cannon from the top of the penalty area, then doubled the lead two minutes after the break when he knocked him his own rebound of a saved shot. Alain Nkong halved the Minnesota lead when buried a shot off a pass from Eric Denton in the 69th minute, but Tarley capped off his spectacular night with two goals in five minutes in quick response to the Colorado goal (72, 76). ... The Thunder played the giant-killing role for the second year running, knocking off Real Salt Lake in extra time in a wild third-round match. Real took a 3-2 lead early in the second half and led 4-3 with 20 minutes left, but Aaron Paye hit for the equalizer two minutes from full time, then Matt Schmidt and Paye scored in extra time (Tarley 15, 66; Menyongar 17, Paye 88, 108; Schmidt 98 - Kreis 9 pen, 50, 70; Watson 38). ... The Thunder entered the competition in the second round, and defeated the PDL Chicago Fire Premier 2-1 on June 29 in St. Paul, an own goal in the 89th minute sealing the victory (Johnny Menyongar 62; own goal 89 - Brandon Moss 90). ... By virtue of their 2004 record, the Thunder entered the competition at the second round along with three other teams; the other four eligible USL First Division sides enter the Open Cup at the third round.
IN THE U.S. OPEN CUP: This is the sixth time in Thunder club history - and fourth year running - they've reached the competition proper in the Open Cup. Last year was by far their best performance, knocking off the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 in the fourth round before losing on penalty kicks to the San Jose Earthquakes after a 2-2 draw in the quarterfinals. They've played MLS teams five times in Open Cup competition, winning two, first losing to the Dallas Burn in 2000 in the third round, and also losing to the Galaxy in 2002 in the fourth round. The Thunder and K.C. Wizards have never met in the U.S. Open Cup.
FORM GUIDE: The Thunder completed the regular season in 10th place in the 12-team USL First Division with 31 points from their 28 matches, with seven victories, 11 losses and 10 ties, finishing out of the playoffs. ... Johnny Menyongar led the Thunder with eight goals (tied for ninth in the USL First Division), and five assists from 27 matches while Aaron Paye had seven goals and two assists and Melvin Tarley had seven league goals (and one assist) before his transfer to Real Salt Lake. However, as terms of his deal, he will be allowed to return to play for the Thunder in their remaining Open Cup matches, bringing along his six goals in the competition (leading the 2005 Open Cup). ... Long-time coach Buzz Lagos has announced his retirement after the completion of the season.