CCL Preview – The Champions League is hard. A lesson everyone around Los Angeles FC had to learn the hard way last week. While the match didn’t go to plan, not all is lost for the black and gold. Down two goals is definitely a steep hill to climb, but if any team can reach the summit, it’s this one.
CCL Preview: LAFC Face Tough Task at Home in Must-Win Match
While the result of the last match wasn’t all that surprising, the form of LAFC, was. Finishing the match with just one shot on goal, a shot that came after the 70th minute, isn’t how an LAFC stat sheet tends to look. It was clear early on this was a team playing their first competitive match of the season. However, even though they face a two goal deficit, with Thursday’s match at The Banc, they can still advance.
Defend The Banc
If history holds, we will see a completely different team Thursday night. Much like the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, LAFC are close to unbeatable at home. In 2019, LAFC lost a total of three home games, one during the MLS season, the US Open Cup Quarterfinals loss, and the last, the playoff loss to Seattle to end the season. In addition to being at home, Los Angeles will have close to a full roster ready to play.
Midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who missed the opener after returning from grueling International tournament play, should be in the starting XI this time around. As should veteran defender, Jordan Harvey, who also missed the opener, tending to his wife during the birth of their second child (congratulations). Both players will be a welcome addition to the squad, with Atuesta’s control of the attack, and Harvey’s presence at the back.
With all eyes on a defense in a bit of a transition phase, the real questions surround the attack. If LAFC can play up to their standard, and have more than one shot on goal, they will have a chance at advancing past a very tough León side who have made clear, they won’t go down easy.
Speaking of the defense in the middle of change, the best thing for them to do, is develop amnesia. Forget last week ever happened, or at the very least, don’t dwell on it. While the performance as a whole was pretty bad, there were enough bright spots to avoid smashing the panic button, for now. Consider this, between the first goal for León, in the 21st minute, and the second in the 88th minute, was a 67 minute scoreless stretch.
Los Angeles played the worst match they have played since their inaugural season in 2018, and still held one of the tournament’s best teams to a 67 minute scoreless stretch. While many assume LAFC need to score four goals to have chance, more faith should be afforded to the defense. With the aforementioned Harvey back with the team, it wouldn’t surprise if León found themselves scoreless after the full 90.
Do Not Overreact
This is a simple one. Perhaps not so much for supporters, but for those within LAFC, don’t expect any knee-jerk reactions to last week’s disaster. MLS as a whole experienced a second-half drop-off in play during the tournament, highlighting just how difficult a tournament like this, especially fresh off preseason.
Expect LAFC to stick with their starting XI, the only changes possibly being the insertion of Harvey and Atuesta. Which is the right move, the last thing you want to do is overreact to the first game of the season, dropping players before they have a chance to find their form. Win or lose, there is no doubt Thursday will feature a much improved Los Angeles squad, one that could possibly, do the seemingly impossible.