By Glen Rosales/NPSL.com
Turn about was not such fair play for Las Vegas Legends FC in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.
After earning their spot – a first for the club — by building a 3-goal lead, then holding on to stave off a late rally, this time around it was the Legends that faced the early 3-goal deficit against New Mexico United.
That halftime hole, however, was not something the Legends of the NPSL could climb from against United of the USL Championship, who advanced to the third round with a 5-0 at the University of New Mexico Soccer & Track Complex.
“We’re an amateur organization and we played against a professional team,” said Meir Cohen, Legends president and founder. “Any team that comes to New Mexico, including an MLS team, would be an underdog. We decided to be a little bit brave today and it cost us.”
Las Vegas came out a bit ragged as United controlled the flow early on, then things got worse as Legends goalkeeper Hector Casillas was caught tripping New Mexico Sergio Rivas on a run inside the penalty area.
When United converted the ensuing penalty kick in the seventh minute, it put the onus on Las Vegas to rebound.
“I think the early penalty kick got us and after that, we just kind of went downhill,” said Legends forward Brandon Vargas. “And we picked it up at the end, but we just didn’t have enough time.”
Facing a noisy and partisan crowd that kept the intensity level up throughout the match, it took the Legends a bit to adjust.
“We love the fans, the pressure, but we let the pressure get to us,” Vargas said. “We came off a little nervous. It took us a few, 20-30 minutes to get in to the game. Still, I think just the experience, we’ll get experience and we’ll be better later on for sure.”
United added a second goal in the 17th minute and another in the 40th to take a commanding 3-0 lead into halftime.
“When you watch too many soccer games, at 3-0 you know it was almost impossible to come back,” Cohen said. “We’ve got quality players. Today was just not our day. We didn’t show it. It’s a young organization so it’s OK. It’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up and we’ll get up from this.”
And while the score was noticeably top-heavy in United’s favor, the Legends were not without their many chances.
“We had, I want to say at least five; I know I had two for sure I should have scored,” Vargas said. “It’s one of those days. The other team has everything on its side. They get the goals. And we just don’t. It’s unfortunate because this is what we wanted to do. Come in and win. But unfortunately we couldn’t get it done.”
Vargas actually had the team’s best scoring chance, blistering a shot from the 18 in the 35th minute. While on target, the shot clipped the underside of the crossbar and bounced straight down then was cleared out.
“Sometimes, you know, you have luck on your side and sometimes you don’t,” Vargas said. “I do what I normally do. I hit it in and unfortunately it hit the (crossbar) and it didn’t want to go in today.”
The turning point, Cohen said, was the early penalty kick.
“We gave up a penalty kick in the first five-10 minutes and from there, it was a little bit tough,” he said. “But I’m proud of my boys. You’ve got to remember, this is all kids that grew up in Vegas. It’s a learning experience. I will tell you this; we’re just going to be stronger from this one.”