The reigning Major League Soccer (MLS) champions, the LA Galaxy, were busy training at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Tuesday.
The team made a return trip back to the Triangle to once again match up with local North American Soccer League (NASL) squad, the Carolina RailHawks, as both teams begin third-round play of the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.
The match winner will advance to the next round of play (June 12) to host Chivas USA, who was a 2-1 winner over the LA Blues on Tuesday.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a knockout-style tournament in American soccer and is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the U.S., and is currently open to all United States Soccer Federation affiliated teams, from amateur adult club teams to the professional clubs of Major League Soccer.
A business trip
According to Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who will be on the sideline coaching the opposing squad since head coach Bruce Arena did not make the trip, the Galaxy expects another strong test from the RailHawks.
“We know we’re playing one of the better teams in the NASL,” Onalfo said.
“They’re a well-coached team. There will be good crowd support in a beautiful facility. We know it’s going to be a very difficult game for us. We’re ready for the challenge.”
The two teams will be meeting for only the second time in their all-time series, with the RailHawks holding a 1-0 advantage over their MLS opponent.
In front of a sold out crowd, Carolina topped the Galaxy 2-1 in last year’s first-ever meeting between the clubs in tournament third-round play.
“We know their strengths, we know their weaknesses,” Onalfo continued.
“And they don’t have a lot of weaknesses.”
The RailHawks possess an impressive 11-1-4 (W-T-L) record in Hunt Cup play, holding a 2-0-3 resume against MLS competition overall, and a 2-0-1 mark against those squads in third-round play.
Rogers expected to play
Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers who recently joined the team after initially announcing his retirement in February 2013 after disclosing that he was gay, made the trip to Cary and is expected to play.
In returning to the MLS in the Galaxy’s recent game against Seattle on Sunday, Rogers became the first openly gay man to participate in a prominent professional league in North America, and due to the media attention surrounding last week’s game, probably possesses the highest profile of any of the Galaxy players competing in Wednesday’s game.
“It felt good to be back,” Rogers said of returning to playing professional soccer.
“After talking to the press and doing all that stuff, stepping on the field and saying, ‘I did it, I’m back.’ No problems,” he concluded of making the transition back onto the pitch.
Rogers’ trip to WakeMed isn’t his first.
In 2005, he played as a member of the University of Maryland men’s soccer team that captured the 2005 NCAA National Championship at the park, and he reminisced about other soccer teams and events he was part of that brought him back often to Cary.
“I’ve been here many times,” he said.
“Won a championship with Maryland, pre-World Cup camp here a little bit. I’ve can’t even count how many times I’ve been here.”
Cool crowd expected on a hot night
Rogers stated that he and his teammates expect a pro-RailHawks reception that may be a cold one as the Galaxy is the enemy that could keep their team from in advancing further in Cup play.
“It just adds to the atmosphere,” Rogers said of playing in front of a packed crowd at WakeMed.
“I’m excited to see how things play out tomorrow.”
Onalfo concurred with what to expect during the game as well.
“We have an enormous respect for the area – it’s a hotbed for soccer,” he said.
“We know we’re gonna’ have a great crowd and regardless of the fact that they’re not gonna’ be rootin’ for us, it gives our guys extra motivation to make sure that we perform to our potential.”
Kickoff between the RailHawks and Galaxy takes place at 7 p.m.
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