CARY — Being down three starters is no way to go up against Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the core of Los Angeles Galaxy – unless you’re the Carolina RailHawks. The underdogs defeated the Galaxy on Tuesday night for the third time in as many seasons, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 101st Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by a 1-0 score.
The winning goal came in the 105th minute, as reserve forward Daniel Jackson broke free for a one-on-one against the Los Angeles goalkeeper. Nick Zimmerman, playing in his first game since 2012, played the through ball that split the Galaxy defenders and sprung Jackson free.
“I just thought I’d blast it and see where it goes,” Jackson said. “It went near-post, and it was a pretty good rip and it went in. Nazmi (Albadawi) had broken up the play. I brought (defender) Leonardo in and I played a one-touch with Zimmerman. He played a ball through and I was in (on goal).
The score came much to the delight of the 3,000 fans – even those wearing Keane and Donovan jerseys – who squeezed into Koka Booth Stadium, the secondary field at WakeMed Soccer Park. The stadium pitch is in the final week of being re-sodded.
The Galaxy started seven of its usual starters, including Keane, and subbed in Landon Donovan in the 64th minute.
The RailHawks had to survive 31 shots from the Galaxy, but the back line kept throwing themselves in front of shots to block the best chances. Only eight of Los Angeles’ shots were on frame, and all were saved by Scott Goodwin.
“We knew we were going to have to defend – not ‘ride our luck’ – but come up with some big plays,” RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said. “Everybody done their bit.”
Goodwin, a Broughton and North Carolina product, wasn’t the starter three weeks ago. But he has now made 19 saves in two rounds of the U.S. Open Cup, following a previous 2-1 win against Chivas USA.
He had to make several electrifying stops in the final minutes, including one on Donovan from point-blank range.
“I didn’t really think about it till about 5 or 10 minutes later, and I was like ‘I think that was Donovan.’ You’re scrambling around watching the ball – you have no time to think about it,” Goodwin said.
Two other usual starters – centerback Toni Stahl and forward Mike Grella – were unavailable as their contracts expired after the Chivas USA game. The team is negotiating with both for the NASL’s fall season.
But for Tuesday, that meant Austen King made his first start of the year at centerback. He, along with Daniel Scott, Kupono Low and Connor Tobin, kept stepping in front of Keane’s numerous shots.
“It felt like an NHL hockey game,” Galaxy associate coach Dave Sarachan said. “There must’ve been, I swear, 30 blocked shots – guys diving in front of shots, crosses. That’s a testament to the group of fighting and digging in.”
The Galaxy out-shot the RailHawks 31-6 and had the advantage in corners 11-4. The RailHawks struggled to possess and found themselves without a true scoring chance until the 41st minute.
Carolina’s best chances in regulation came in the final minute. Jackson had the final shot of the match, but it was tipped away. It was nearly identical to the game-winner.
Part of the reason the Galaxy brought its best is the team was hungry to return to the CONCACAF Champions League after losing an automatic spot last year when it failed to repeat its MLS Cup title. The U.S. Open Cup winner has an automatic berth. Instead, the RailHawks continued to have success against Los Angeles and the MLS.
The RailHawks are now 16-6 all-time in Cup play and 6-4 all-time against teams from MLS (6-2 when at home). Their home match unbeaten streak of 23 games is still intact, and they have not trailed at home this year.
The RailHawks will host either the Houston Dynamo or FC Dallas in the Cup’s quarterfinals on July 8 or 9. That game will be back in the WakeMed Soccer Park’s main stadium. Clarke gave praise to the temporary set-up.
“I thought it looked professional and well set-up,” he said. “I think that goes a long way to winning the game, and I want to thank them.”
Blake: 919-460-2606; For RailHawks coverage on Twitter: @SWakeSports