The Leagues Cup is a display of Major League Soccer (MLS) and Liga MX talent. Four teams from the MLS and four teams from Liga MX will compete during a single game elimination tournament. The LA Galaxy faced Xolos de Tijuana and beat them in the Quarterfinals. They are set to play Cruz Azul on August 20th; the winner of that game will play the final on September 18th in Las Vegas.
So what is the fuss about the game and why are some people against the tournament? Some believe that the tournament is no different than the CONCACAF and others believe it’s nothing but a gimmick for revenue. However, the timing of this tournament is different as it starts in the summer and not early in the year which gives MLS teams more time to develop and better chances of optimal performance.
Recap: LA Galaxy Vs. Xolos De Tijuana
Supporters from both teams gradually filled the stadium at Dignity Health Park. Many claimed that the game would not be exciting and that neither team would play their starters. The LA Galaxy came mixed with young and veteran players and Xolos played with almost a full starting line-up.
The claims of boredom and a lack of effort from players proved to be false. The game was nothing but excitement from start to finish. Emmanuel Boateng scored the first goal for the Galaxy, which was countered with a goal from Xolos shortly after. Xolos then scored again right before the end of the half.
During the second half, Dave Romney scored a convincing header that even Zlatan Ibrahimović would be proud of. Even though Tijuana’s attack was strong, LA was able to maintain the score at a tie. The excitement grew even further due to the single-elimination format which forced the game into penalty kicks.
Servando Carrasco, who had one of the best games of the season with LA, scored the first goal to put up the Galaxy 1-0. Matt Lampson then blocked Tijuana’s first attempt. Galaxy’s Efraín Álvarez narrowly missed the second penalty and hit the post. Tijuana’s second shot was in and placed the score at 1-1. Emil Cuello from the Galaxy had his shot blocked. Lampson then blocked a second shot against TJ, and Boateng banked in his shot, making the score 2-1 for the Galaxy. Lampson amazingly blocked another goal and Captain Giancarlo “Pipo” González sealed the deal by scoring his penalty kick. The Galaxy won the game 3-1 in penalties.
The man of the match was Lampson who saved the penalty kicks and gave the Galaxy the lead. Lampson read his opponents and blocked three attempts with ease. Both Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Dominic Kinnear were proud of their players. During the press conference, head coach Schelotto praised his young players. He stated that many of the players ranged from 17-20 years old and felt that they played well against experienced players.
Assistant coach Kinnear stated that he was very happy for Lampson to have that experience.
Where To Go From Here?
Although many MLS fans don’t necessarily support the Leagues Cup, the quarterfinals provided young players with experience and veterans with the ability to guide and contribute. Young players like Julian Araujo and Efraín Álvarez both played the Leagues Cup and have had several starts with the Galaxy this season. The Galaxy is still finding their line up as they continue to shuffle the starting line-up due to missed players and allocation of more minutes for young players.
It is likely that we will see more of Araujo and Álvarez.
Zlatan praised Álvarez stating that he has a high fútbol IQ. Araujo demonstrated his versatility in the win against LAFC. He asked to play a different position which proved to be a lucrative move as he assisted one of Zlatan’s goals against LAFC.
Games like the Leagues Cup tournament can have some utility for the overall development of players. During the Semifinals on August 20th, the Galaxy may have a different lineup, but the game will still allow the coaching staff to move around players and try them in different positions without it impacting league games. Although many changes could be made to the Leagues Cup such as qualifying regulations and more incentives to play key starters, the tournament could be the start of something good to come.