The Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) needed to win 3-0 Thursday night to progress to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. An uphill climb facing Club Leon who held a 2-0 aggregate lead and looked by far the better team in their away game.
The challenge didn’t matter to LAFC as they came away with the stunning 3-0 win in front of their boisterous supporters to move on in the competition. Los Angeles kept up a relentless pace and kept attacking Leon in their end pinning them back on offense.
On defense, it was a team effort that kept Leon from scoring the crucial away goal that would have really put LAFC’s back to the wall.
L.A. outshot Leon on goal 10-0 and if Leon goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota had not been on his game it’s likely Leon’s loss would have been worse.
Cota made some early saves as LAFC was trying to get on the scoreboard from the start. LAFC looked to get a goal in the 21st minute when Diego Rossi hit the post and the rebound went to Carlos Vela, but it was disallowed for offside.
Vela finally got LAFC on the board scoring five minutes later off a scramble that Cota couldn’t manage putting LAFC on top 1-0. That was all LAFC could muster for the first half despite continued pressure.
In the second half things got chippy as LAFC needed to at least equalize to get to penalties. Both teams combined for 22 fouls and five cards, Leon tried to hold on to their slim lead trying to advance.
In a two minute period LAFC took all the momentum from Leon and ultimately the game. Having peppered Cota looking for the tying goal, LAFC finally got a breakthrough thanks to Vela.
In the 77th minute Tristan Blackmon found Vela running into the box who latched on and quickly put the ball in the net with a left-footed shot tying Leon on aggregate at 2-2.
Two minutes later LAFC stunned Leon when Diego Rossi found himself with some space in front of the goal and took a shot that avoided Cota’s attempted save to hit the crossbar and in.
LAFC lead 3-0 and 3-2 on aggregate, both leads they would not relinquish as Leon could not muster a comeback and found themselves out of the tournament.
Coach Bob Bradley praised his team’s intensity after the game:
“We were committed to closing the ball down and making sure the game was harder. We wanted to make it a hard game and we would push them out of their comfort zone. We wanted to make sure that no one was going to have an easy play. That’s the intensity of the group.”
To cap off the night Mark-Anthony Kaye had a message for those who were ready to write off LAFC:
“I think a lot of teams counted us out and now they’ll be looking at this game thinking ‘wow LAFC is still LAFC and maybe even better.’”