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    LAFC ready for U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal after Houston postponement
    • July 10, 2024

    With the postponement of the Los Angeles Football Club’s match in Houston on Sunday, the Black & Gold hustled to leave town as Hurricane Beryl closed in on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

    A few days after Beryl became the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record as it roared over the Caribbean, LAFC was scheduled to travel to Shell Energy Stadium and face the team it had vanquished to reach the MLS Cup final last year.

    With the storm’s outer bands soaking the area in the first part of the day and a later downpour swamping the field amid lightning strikes, the MLS regular-season contest with the Dynamo, which had been pushed up two hours, was called off.

    The decision gave Coach Steve Cherundolo and his squad a chance to leave instead of hunkering down and riding it out.

    “Once we’re there obviously we all wanted to play,” Cherundolo said. “I think both clubs. But Mother Nature had other plans, and so we were thankful to get out in time before things got pretty bad. Looking at pictures it did get bad, so we were happy to land safely in L.A.”

    The deadly Beryl left 3 million Harris County residents without power.

    Flights in and out of the region’s two airports were canceled for much of Monday, with limited service the following day.

    Not wanting to get marooned, LAFC rushed from the stadium and got its gear packed. The players, coaches and staff then waited for a Sun Country Airlines charter plane that was parked in Dallas to pick them up, which it did around 10 p.m. local time – an 90 minutes earlier than they were likely to leave had the game been played.

    Boarded and seated on the tarmac, Beryl’s strong winds buffeted the plane.

    From takeoff until they broke through the cloud cover, the ride was nervy.

    Eduard Atuesta’s first run-in with a hurricane “was a little bit scary for me,” the midfielder said. While Beryl came within 300 miles of Atuesta’s native Colombia, the LAFC midfielder got a much closer look than he ever would have wanted.

    “When you hear that it’s a hurricane you feel like, ‘Wow, what is that? It’s something big,’” Atuesta said. “But thank God we came back good. We wanted to play to continue winning games in that good phase that we have right now. But it’s OK.”

    Cherundolo planned to rotate the lineup against Houston, leaving Atuesta, Ilie Sanchez, Ryan Hollingshead and Kei Kamara on the bench. Starting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris didn’t make the trip. Neither did midfielder Timothy Tillman, who was supposed to be suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation but that will be served against the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

    When New Mexico steps on the field at BMO Stadium for the first time, Tillman will start in a strong lineup that features Lloris in his U.S. domestic cup debut.

    If there’s a silver lining in traveling but not playing Houston, it’s that during the club’s most congested stretch of games this year the players have one less game in their legs.

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    Before Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against New Mexico United FC and three key league tilts – the MLS Cup rematch; high-flying Real Salt Lake; and Seattle as it rounds into shape – that’s a positive.

    New Mexico comes into the single-elimination game in good form, winning seven of its last nine to occupy the top spot in the USL Championship’s Western Conference, ranking third overall in the table.

    Besting the Las Vegas Lights FC and Loudoun United FC in May, a physical and experienced New Mexico should be LAFC’s toughest second-division opponent seeking to block its path to a prestigious trophy the franchise has never won before.

    NEW MEXICO UNITED FC AT LAFC

    What: U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal

    When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

    Where: BMO Stadium, Los Angeles

    TV/Radio: Apple TV+ – Free710 AM, 980 AM

    ​ Orange County Register 

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