That skid ended Wednesday when Arena’s Galaxy twice overcame deficits to beat the Seattle Sounders, 4-2, in a tournament quarterfinal at the StubHub Center.
The spark for that comeback was ignited in the 74th minute when Arena brought Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes off his bench. Over the next 14 minutes, Dos Santos scored one goal while Zardes assisted on a pair by Sebastian Lletget.
“You roll the dice sometimes,” Arena said. “Obviously we injected those players in the game to get a goal. We were fortunate.”
The Galaxy will play FC Dallas in the semifinals. The game is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 10; a draw will be held Thursday to choose a location.
If the Galaxy has struggled recently in the Open Cup, the nation’s oldest soccer competition, the Sounders have owned it, winning four titles since joining MLS in 2009. And the last two times the Galaxy made it to the quarterfinals, they were eliminated by Seattle.
With the main stadium playing host to the CrossFit Games, Wednesday’s game was moved a couple of hundred yards south to the StubHub Center’s track stadium, and many in the crowd of 3,409 were still finding seats when Michael Farfan gave Seattle a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
The goal was a gift from Galaxy defender Leonardo, whose attempt at a clearance went straight to Farfan, setting up a one-on-one with goalkeeper Clement Diop.
The lead lasted just 13 minutes before Alan Gordon pulled the Galaxy even, redirecting a Baggio Husidic shot in from the edge of the six-yard box.
Gordon is the only player left from the last Galaxy team that played in a U.S. Open final, in 2006. He scored the Galaxy’s only goal in a 3-1 loss to Chicago.
“I remember that game,” said Gordon, 34. “My days are numbered, my Cups are numbered. So I certainly want to win this [semifinal], as do a lot of other guys on this team.”
Seattle would make the Galaxy work to get there, though, with Herculez Gomez putting the Sounders back on top 13 minutes into the second half by scoring from a difficult angle. Gomez, a former U.S. World Cup player, raced under a long cross from Dylan Remick and got his right foot on it at the end line, deflecting it just inside the right post.
With time running out on another Open Cup, the next move came from Arena, who went to his bench for Dos Santos and Zardes with 16 minutes left in regulation.
“As soon as they came in, I knew they were going to bring a lot of energy,” Lletget said. “They made such a big impact right away.”
Dos Santos had been on the field less than three minutes before he turned a poor clearance by Seattle’s Zach Scott into the first of three unanswered goals. Lletget then put the Galaxy ahead to stay in the 85th, sliding under a Husidic cross and redirecting it into the goal.
Three minutes later he turned a Zardes pass into another score, giving him four goals in three U.S. Open Cup games, all of them coming after the 85th minute.