Recap — For the first time in over nine months, LAFC faced off in an international tournament. Also for the first time in those same nine months, LAFC came into a match with a full squad to choose from.
While the regulars were back in action for the black and gold, it was once again the youth that shined brightest. In the end, LAFC was able to do what no other MLS club achieved, they advanced to the SCCL Semi-Finals.
SCCL: LAFC Advance to Semi-Finals as Lone MLS Team Remaining
Cruz Azul may have come into the match with everything going against them, but they made it clear early on that they were far from rollovers. While LAFC controlled the first 10 minutes of the match, it was Cruz Azul to find the first goal of the match, via penalty. A loss of possession led to a Cruz Azul counter, which was promptly stopped by an Eddie Segura pull-down in the box. Azul’s Yoshimar Yotún, finished from the spot with the fancy Panenka, giving them the lead in the 15th minute. However, in true LAFC fashion, they weren’t down for long.
While Cruz Azul controlled a majority of the first half, it ended on a high for the black and gold after Carlos Vela was able to draw a penalty of his own. As he is known to do, he stepped up to the spot, and leveled proceedings at one goal each. The second half was all LAFC. It felt as though Cruz Azul were content with playing for the draw, forcing a shootout. In all honesty, not a bad strategy considering LAFC’s inconsistencies at goalkeeper. However, if that’s your plan, you can’t let the opposition get open looks at goal.
Unfortunately for them, that’s precisely what happened. In the 71st minute, 19-year-old Kwadwo Opoku, opened his LAFC account in style. After the corner kick sailed over two attackers, it found Opoku who put in a rocket near far post for the lead, and eventual game-winning goal.
— LAFC (@LAFC) December 17, 2020
Ironing Out The Wrinkles
While LAFC came into the match with a full squad available, it was clear the chemistry and fine tuning still needed work. An aspect completely understandable for an XI that hasn’t played together much this year. LAFC finished the match with only 44% of possession, and only a 72% accuracy on passes. They did however, finish with 15 shots, in large part due to. their high corner count, finishing with nine for the match. With an even tougher opponent ahead, a win while still not playing your best can give a team a lot of confidence, knowing they have another level they can reach.
Speaking of the next opponent, it’s Mexico’s premier side Club América. The list of the club’s achievements itself could take up several articles worth of space. In American sports terms, they are the Yankees, Lakers and Alabama Crimson Tide all rolled into one. They have won the Concacaf Champions League a record seven times, and won’t be coming into the match missing most of their starters or having had a coach resign. Instead they bring several current and former Mexican national team players, as well as the former Mexican national team head coach.
However, even with all the accolades, this LAFC team is good enough, when playing their style of soccer, to get the win. Again, the new format for the tournament means Los Angeles don’t have to win over the course of two legs, they just need to put together a solid 90 minutes to get past one of Liga MX’s best sides.
— LAFC (@LAFC) December 17, 2020
The Last Word
Everything about last night’s win should breed confidence around LAFC. While they did play a team that had everything go wrong in the build-up, they didn’t have their best match. They didn’t control possession, made several errors, one that led to an early goal, and their star players never really got going. Again, first time in almost a year that this XI has seen the field together. Perhaps the brightest spot is the continued performance of the new, younger guys.
While Opoku stole the night with his game-winning goal, the young defender, Jesus Murillo, had himself a very solid performance at the back. His partnership with Eddie Segura seems to be blossoming and at the perfect time. When star players and veterans return to the fold, it is common to see younger players take steps back into the shadows. It is very promising to see LAFC’s youth continue to take center stage.