Luis Gil's goal sends Spokane into third round of U.S. Open Cup

Apr. 3—Might as well call Spokane Velocity FC the heartbreak kids — as two late winners in consecutive Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games see them advance to the third round.

Two weeks ago, it was a 96th-minute winner and this time around, Luis Gil was the one on the receiving end of a saved shot that was rocketed in before falling to his feet just outside of the six-yard box.

He pulled it to the goalie's left for an 85th-minute goal that gave Velocity FC a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Force on Wednesday at ONE Spokane Stadium.

The goal was his second Cup goal in his career and first since a 2012 strike with Real Salt Lake.

"It was coming sooner or later," Gil said, referencing the pressure Spokane had applied to LA for 90 minutes.

Gil was in the right place at the right time, but it was a strong run from midfielder Pierre Reedy who shrugged off a few challenges as he lofted a ball toward Kimarni Smith.

The pass didn't quite reach its intended target, but the clearance found the boots of Andre Lewis at the 18-yard box who sent a bouncing shot toward goal.

The deflected shot was Gil's to put away.

Reedy said the team had worked on its crossing all week, wanting to be more effective in the final third with dangerous balls that defenses need to clear.

His pass was just that, sent into an area that forced a clearance and Spokane was first to the second ball.

On his shot on goal, Lewis went down during the celebrations, requiring treatment before being stretchered off the field.

"Too early to say, we'll see what it is over the next couple of days, probably wait for it to settle down a little bit first," Veidman said.

Veidman inserted Lewis into the fold in the 72nd minute, knowing the offensive-minded center midfielder would create more chances that Spokane desperately needed.

He only played 17 minutes before being subbed off with the injury.

"Andre brings that dynamism to our midfield, he was fantastic," Veidman said. "When he came in, it was unfortunate what happened, but he was a big part in creating the goal. So that's what it's about, everybody's needed, whether you're starting or coming off the bench."

Velocity FC had 70% of the game's possession, suffocating the Force inside their half.

"I just think that we did a fantastic job with the ball and maintaining the ball, especially in the second half, much better than the first half, we were getting a little bit impatient in the first half," Veidman said. "But as we started to be a little bit more patience in the second half and attack from different parts of the pitch, we really started to pin them back."

Spokane started on the front foot and dominated possession for the majority of the game.

It was a strategy head coach Leigh Veidman and his staff had not seen from the Force when they scouted them.

LA had usually been on its front foot, dictating the pace and possession, especially from the back.

Spokane completed 504 passes, while LA had 172, according to FotMob.

In their first game hosting the U.S. Open Cup, Spokane dealt with a chippy Force team which caused the crowd to chirp all night. They followed the leads of both managers on the touchline, as play was sometime stagnant and the aggression was high.

LA established its physicality early as they came in with the intention of scrapping it up.

"That's what the Open Cup is," Reedy said. "Coach always talks about it's going to be a dogfight because a lot of these lower league teams, for them, it's kind of their World Cup."

That led to a choppy brand of soccer, one that favored Spokane in the end. Kimarni Smith — who started up front at striker — did force some hurried clears and late challenges as he galloped toward goal multiple times, trying to get behind the defense to cause chaos.

His speed was a factor the entire game, forcing LA to respect the long balls over the top.

Smith and other Velocity players had a few chances in and around the 18-yard box, but they were too slow on the ball, lacking the instinct to put balls on net.

Gil has recognized this the first few weeks of play and wants the team to shoot and create their own chances.

"The important thing is getting the ball in the box because anything can happen," he said. "At some point we have to start pushing ourselves to make it happen, we just can't keep waiting for it. Whether it's me stepping up to the plate, taking shots — I know I hit a few over the bar — but you never know what can happen. It can take a deflection, it could be a wonder goal, you have to take shots to score."

Spokane finds out its opponent and location on Thursday when the next round of the U.S. Open Cup is announced.

Its next U.S. Open Cup game will be played April 16 or 17.

Velocity's next league game is April 14 at Lexington Sporting Club.