Recap – The Concacaf Champions League debut didn’t go as planned for LAFC. The first leg of the Round of 16 was as difficult as advertised, as LAFC lose to León, 2-0. The match was pretty one-way for its entirety, with the home side creating the most chances.
LAFC Lose to León in Concacaf Champions League Debut
The first 20 minutes of the match had shades of an anticipated prize-fight in boxing. Both teams spent the opening getting a feel for one another, with little breakthrough for either side. However, that changed early, as León opened the scoring in just the 21st minute of the match. A counter-attack, led by Jean Meneses, ended with him putting the moves past Tristan Blackmon, and finding the back of the net for the lead. As disappointing as the goal was, all was not lost as LAFC stormed back immediately, missing a close chance to at an equalizer. Los Angeles did good weather the storm, as a 1-0 deficit would have been much more manageable heading back to The Banc.
However, it was not to be, as León put the game away late. In the 88th minute, Angel Mena, one of two strikers left completely unmarked at the top of the box, scored. The Liga MX side will now take a comfortable 2-0 goal lead, to Los Angeles, for the second leg of the round.
From the start, it was a rough game for the black and gold. While many expected a few shakeups on the team sheet, there were a couple of eye-opening surprises. First, Eduard Atuesta, who had recently returned from International duty, was left out of the 18-man roster. He was not on the injury report, meaning he likely needed extra rest. In addition, Dejan Jaković got the starting nod at CB, with Blackmon paying his natural RB. Both moves proved critical, as it was poor defense, and lack of creativity in the midfield, which led to an LAFC loss.
LAFC has a tough hill to climb, but they aren’t dead yet. This team plays completely different when defending The Banc. However, it is clear that the defense needs some work if they are not only to survive Champions League but do well come MLS season. While the attack left a lot to be desired, that isn’t as much of a worry, as the team can still score at a moment’s notice. The big concern is at the back. Vermeer, while solid, didn’t leap off the screen, and the back-four still has a lot of chemistry building left to do. All-in-all, while a rocky start was expected given this was the first competitive match of the year, tonight was bad. LAFC needs to fix its problems now before their Champions League campaign ends.