Preview – When the SCCL Semi-Finals kick off Saturday night, LAFC won’t just be playing for Los Angeles, but the entire league. The black and gold are the lone MLS team left standing after their 2-1 win over Cruz Azul. While they were the beneficiaries of not playing a first-leg, it took all they had to overcome a short-handed, but feisty, Azul. Now, they set sights on Mexico’s powerhouse, Club América.
SCCL Preview: LAFC Face Mexican Powerhouse For Finals Spot
Saturday’s match couldn’t get any more different than the previous outing for LAFC. While Cruz Azul are a top club, they were in the midst of massive turmoil. Club América come into the match with a full squad, featuring several Mexican National team players. In addition, they have a manager, Miguel Herrara, who once managed the Mexican National team, as well as Carlos Vela specifically. Domestically, this is a club with just about every trophy there is, and currently hold the record for SCCL championships with seven.
This isn’t to paint the picture that LAFC stand no chance, as they’ve proven countless times that on their day, they too are unbeatable. However, it is important for players to understand the challenge ahead, if only to remain focused on the opportunity they have. While América may have lost their second-leg match to Atlanta United, they will be ready to flex their experience against one of MLS’ best.
Midfield The Major Key
For the better part of a year, the biggest criticism lobbed at LAFC has been the lack of defense. While I do agree they need to invest in some CB and RB depth, I disagree with defense being the issue. If there is one glaring takeaway from the last match, it’s how important midfield play is for LAFC. The lone goal for Cruz Azul came via penalty, but it’s how that penalty was earned. Mark-Anthony Kaye gave up possession, which led to an easy counter with a great look on goal, which forced Segura to get desperate in defending, causing the foul in the box.
It’s been the story for LAFC all season. Midfielder loses possession, opposition goes on a break, defense caught out, easy shot at goal, usually successfully converted. While it hasn’t been all down to Kaye, his rough season has caused some equally rough moments. The play from him, as well as the rest of the midfield, will be critical if LAFC hope to continue their historic journey, en route to the Finals.
Carlos Vela Motivated
Not since his arrival to Los Angeles has Carlos Vela likely felt the need to prove himself. While it’s easy to forget, his arrival was paired with questions of his desire to continue playing at a high level, and his desire for success. Both have been answered, emphatically. Vela didn’t come to MLS to just coast by and collect checks, he came to build something special in Los Angeles, and has succeeded. However, as he leads the black and gold into the SCCL Semi-Finals, he still has something to prove to the teams from his home country.
“Carlos has set a fantastic tone for everybody” said Head Coach Bob Bradley when speaking to media ahead of the match. “He’s our leader. He brings so much experience and personality and I know for sure when we play there big Mexican teams, he has extra motivation.” A motivated Carlos Vela should put on a show Saturday night.
The Last Word
Interestingly, Club América are more familiar with Carlos Vela than many may know. In addition to featuring a couple of players who once played alongside Carlos Vela, their manager, Miguel Herrara, coached him briefly as well. While this won’t have a dramatic impact on the match, seeing as Carlos Vela has thrived even more in the years since, it is an interesting tidbit.
With that said, LAFC will be in a battle from start to finish. Liga MX sides already view losing to an MLS team as the worst possible outcome. A team with as much recognition and cache as América, losing is almost out of the question. Which is a win for the fans, as this match will likely be the best of the tournament. If LAFC can keep the midfield clean, they can win this match, easily.