Galaxy coach Greg Vanney remembers a time when his team’s home was a fortress. Lately, however, Dignity Health Sports Park has been about as impenetrable as a bowl of chicken soup.
But that all changes when LAFC makes the short drive down the Harbor Freeway. For the Galaxy’s neighborhood rivals, the stadium is nothing short of a house of horrors – as it was again Wednesday when Kévin Cabral and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored goals six minutes apart early in the second half, giving the Galaxy a 3-1 win that eliminated LAFC from the U.S. Open Cup.
With the win, the Galaxy go on to face the Sacramento Republic, which plays in the second-tier USL Championship, in the tournament quarterfinals next month. The Galaxy have made it past the U.S. Open quarterfinals just once since 2006.
Just as important, however, is the fact that the win was their first at Dignity Health Sports Park in a month. The Galaxy were booed off the field at the end of their last two home matches, which they lost by combined 6-1.
There were only cheers Wednesday, a night in which the Galaxy dominated from the start, then grew stronger as the game went on. LAFC may have the second-most regular-season victories in the MLS since entering the league in 2018, but it hasn’t won in eight tries in Carson
“They have to remember this feeling because what they put out there tonight is how they should play
every game,” Vanney said of his players. “When you want to be champions, you play every game hard and you play with that kind of focus and concentration and attention to detail. That was a good example for what it looks like for us when we do that.
“The performance for me was complete. It was a good standard for us as a team.”
The Galaxy, who wore black armbands in tribute to the victims of Tuesday’s deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, scored their first two goals on breakaways. On the first, winger Samuel Grandsir sprinted up the left wing before sending a long cross into the box for a sliding Cabral, who redirected it in for his second goal this year, both in U.S. Open Cup matches.
“I was so happy to help the team,” Cabral said. “Against LAFC, it’s important.”
The second sequence began with the Galaxy defending a corner kick deep in their end. Cabral came away with the ball this time and sent it forward for Grandsir, who sped up the center of the field before feeding Hernández for the goal.
The Galaxy’s Dejan Joveljic and LAFC’s Ryan Hollingshead exchanged goals in the final 10 minutes to account for the final score.
“This was the best game we’ve played all year at home,” defender Raheem Edwards said of the Galaxy, who gave up just one shot on target.
The game was chippy most of the night, but it reached full boil late in the first half when Hernández undercut Diego Palacios, sending the LAFC player tumbling hard to the turf. Hernández continued upfield where he was struck from behind by LAFC’s Jesús David Murillo in what appeared to be retaliation.
Hernández and Palacios, who landed awkwardly on his neck, stayed down for several minutes and their teammates engaged in a lot of pushing and shoving before order was restored. Hernández and LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta were given yellow cards while Palacios was sent into the locker room and MLS’ concussion protocol, the second LAFC player to leave with an injury in the first half.
Captain Carlos Vela left in the 20th minute with what the team called a left quadriceps injury.
LAFC’s frustration returned after the final whistle, with more pushing and shoving just outside the south penalty area.
Although LAFC remains atop the MLS table — standings that won’t be affected by the Open Cup game — it has lost three of its last four while the three goals it allowed were the most it has given up this season.
The loss was just the second in 10 U.S. Open Cup games for LAFC, which reached the quarterfinals in its previous two appearances.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.