Sacramento Gold FC earned the club's first ever U.S. Open Cup win last week. This week, they'll look to travel to Southern California and get a second. To do so, they'll have to get past a fiercely talented club playing with the home field advantage, coming in on a roll, and looking to match the success of a local rival. In the latest edition of "Know Your Opponent," learn more about La Máquina.
City: Santa Ana, CA
Stadium: Lake Forest Sports Complex
General Manager: Edson Martinez
Head Coach: Alex Uribe
A club with a low profile, but boasting highly competitive squad, La Máquina FC was founded in 2011 as a branch of the Irvine Premier Soccer Club (IPSC) for competition in the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL). Since La Máquina's introduction as one of the league's founding members, the Santa Ana-based UPSL has expanded to include nearly 50 teams across Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada. The UPSL is one of 54 smaller state organizations, regional groups, and national leagues under the umbrella of the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA). The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and Premier Development League (PDL) are affiliates of the USASA.
La Máquina takes its name and identity from Cruz Azul of Liga MX, the top league in Mexican club soccer. Between 1970-1980, Cruz Azul won six Primera División championships, including consecutive titles in 1979 and 1980, a feat the club has yet to repeat. The power and dominance displayed in the wins invoked the image of a locomotive, earning the moniker "La Máquina Celeste" (The Celestial Machine), which remains an unofficial nickname. Southern California's La Máquina borrows Cruz Azul's color scheme (blue and white with red trim) and also adorns its crest with a blue cross.
Though the club's image comes from elsewhere, La Máquina's heart has always remained in its home of Santa Ana. Most of La Máquina's roster was built with some of the best yet-to-be-discovered talent in the region. In a region like Santa Ana and a greater area of Southern California, there's quite a talent pool to reap from. La Máquina has also established its home in one of the finest fields around, Lake Forest Sports Complex, just outside of Irvine. Head coach Alex Uribe and general manager (and assistant coach) Edson Martinez also help behind the scenes with IPSC. La Máquina have built a true family and community atmosphere within the club.
However, familiarity often breeds contempt. Some contempt boiled over during a UPSL Quarterfinal match between La Máquina and rival San Nicolas late last year. Despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead, La Máquina were eliminated by three straight San Nicolas goals. After the third, a brawl broke out and La Máquina's goalkeeper was ejected. However, San Nicolas officials say he came back after the final whistle and sparked another brawl, one which pulled in fans from both sides. After the playoffs ended (and San Nicolas lifted the trophy), the UPSL decided to suspend San Nicolas six games of the next season, while La Máquina was banned for the entire campaign.
Before the suspension, The Machine was rolling through its competition. La Máquina went 18-1 during the 2014-15 UPSL season, scoring 99 goals and posting a goal differential of +83. They kept it up during U.S. Open Cup qualifying, posting a 4-0 win over Chula Vista in what would prove to be the final round. Chula Vista was a sensation during the 2015 Open Cup, defeating the United Soccer League (USL)'s Arizona United 3-0 before falling to another USL club: Sacramento Republic FC. In addition, PSA Elite, another UPSL team, reached the Fourth Round in both the 2014 and 2015 tournaments. La Máquina has its eyes on matching those runs this year.
Edwin Borboa: Liga MX fans will recognize Borboa's name. The Los Mochis, Sinaloa native played in Mexico's top league from 2004-2011, most notably for CD Guadalajara (Chivas) for for three years. Borboa scored two goals in 26 appearance for the club and was part of the 8-seed Chivas team which won Apertura 2006. He was loaned to Atlante the following year and won Apertura 2007 with the Iron Colts. Borboa later suited up for León, Pachuca, and Dorados before bouncing around the lower levels of Mexican soccer. Finished with his pro career, Borboa has 37 goals in 16 UPSL games for La Máquina, as well as three in the last two Open Cup qualifiers/games.
Edgar Orozco: One of La Máquina's most productive players during their Open Cup run, Orozco is a smart midfielder with an eye for assists. This was apparent in La Máquina's final Open Cup qualifying game against Chula Vista FC, when Orozco tallied an assist hat truck in the club's 4-0 win. Orozco, a Santa Ana native, has continued to be productive for those close by, having followed up four stellar years at Santa Ana and Corona High Schools with four years at Concordia University Irvine. Starting his first 40 games as an Eagle, Orozco scored 21 goals and dished out six assists, earning All-Golden State Athletic Conference honors as a freshman.
Alejandro Velazquez: During La Máquina's run through local qualifying and current Open Cup campaign, Velazquez has not only been an offensive weapon, but one proven to be effective at crucial moments of the game. With La Máquina holding a slim 1-0 lead against Chula Vista, the young midfielder found teammate Rodolfo Godinez for the second goal. The assist (and goal) would be the back-breaker. Then, in the First Round, Velazquez scored the eventual game-winner in the opening minutes to put the hosts on their heels and help set the tone early. If Velazquez gets on the score sheet, it is certain to be at an important moment in the game.
2016 Season So Far:
With no UPSL regular season slate due to the ban, La Máquina's efforts are focused solely on the 2016 U.S. Open Cup. Their focus has already proved to be sharp with their performance against the Portland Timbers' U-23 squad in the First Round. La Máquina came out hungry and, after scoring in the opening minutes, continued to push the pace and dominate the home squad. In addition, its traveling fans actually out sung and drowned out the home Timbers fans, a remarkable feat considering Providence Park is one of the most esteemed and boisterous home field advantages in all of American soccer. Riding this wave, La Máquina held off the Timbers and added another in the dying minutes of the match to pull out a quite impressive 2-0 win.
All-Time U.S. Open Cup Results:
Saturday, October 24, 2015: La Máquina 3 @ Strikers FC South Coast 2
Saturday, November 21, 2015: La Máquina 4 @ Chula Vista 0
Saturday, December 5, 2015: San Nicolas 3 @ La Máquina 2
Three Things You (Probably) Didn't Know:
In addition to the three listen above, La Máquina has several players chock full of professional and international experience. Defender Carlos Borja played with the United States U-17 and U-20 National Teams before an eight-year pro career, which included three stints with Chivas USA. Forward/midfielder David Arvizu also played on those national teams and Chivas USA, in addition to a stint with the New York Red Bulls. Defender Oscar Reyes played for four years at UCLA and has experience with a U.S. national team. However, unlike Borja and Arvizu, Reyes' experience came with the country's beach soccer squad.
Though La Máquina's home field is in Lake Forest, a scheduling conflict has forced Wednesday's game location to move to nearby Westminster High School. Founded in 1959, the school's name and traditions are derived from the famous Westminster Abbey in London, England. The school's colors -- red, black, and white -- are those of the Queen's Guard, and the school's lion mascot is the national animal of England. Speaking of Queen, the famous rock band's song "Bohemian Rhapsody" was featured in the movie Wayne's World. The music video work was so good, the director, Penelope Spheeris (a Westminster High alumna), earned a Grammy Award nomination.
La Máquina is one of three UPSL squads to advance to this year's U.S. Open Cup, but the only one to win in the First Round. San Nicolas (La Máquina's brawl partner) fell to FC Tuscon 3-0, while the LA Wolves lost to the Ventura County Fusion by the final score of 2-1. However, the Wolves filed a protest with U.S. Soccer, alleging the Fusion fielded an ineligible player, one cap-tied to a team the Wolves played in qualifying. The protest was upheld, the Fusion disqualified, and the Wolves moved into the Second Round against the Orange County Blues. The winner of that game will play the winner between La Máquina and the Sacramento Gold.