It’s prediction time!
LAFC have a golden opportunity to become the second MLS club in history to win the Concacaf Champions League in its current format. To do so, they will need to get past Liga MX's Club León this Sunday at BMO Stadium (9 pm ET | FS1, TUDN).
The Black & Gold are coming off a 2-1 Leg 1 loss in Mexico and will need to win by at least two goals in order to claim the title as the away goals rule doesn't apply to the two-legged CCL final. While it's a difficult task, Dénis Bouanga made the second leg in LA feel more manageable after scoring in second-half stoppage time.
With the stakes so high and LAFC facing some real adversity being down a goal, we asked the experts over at MLS Season Pass and MLSsoccer.com to weigh on the big final.
Will LAFC get the job done? This is what they say:
LAFC will attack relentlessly like we have seen from them all season. Bouanga will once again be the difference maker, scoring twice. León will push but they won't have enough.
León have never won CCL and after a surprising elimination in Liga MX's Clausura tournament, there will be pressure on them to claim the title in Los Angeles. Nicolás Lacarmón's men lacked a killer instinct at home and left a door open for LAFC on Sunday. Still, if León can play similarly to how they did in Leg 1 and properly deal with the pressure, they have a great chance of winning.
In my mind, the decider at BMO Stadium will end in a tie and León will be champions.
LAFC don't know how to lose, especially at home. A brace by Bouanga and the game-winner from Carlos Vela. Put 2023 trophy #1 in the case by June!
Coming back home only one goal down was key for LAFC to still fight for the trophy. I see them scoring first at BMO Stadium and beating León on penalties.
In the first leg, the game plan for León at home was to throw everything in, kitchen sink included, at LAFC. They made the visitors uncomfortable and had them gasping for air in those tough conditions. To have done all that and walk away with just a 2-1 aggregate lead, especially conceding to Dénis Bouanga so late, has to be a massive disappointment for León. They will not be able to perform like that again on Sunday in Los Angeles, and LAFC’s play will be lifted at home. There should have been more goals in the first leg and there will be more in the second.
I got 2-1 LAFC, with kicks from the spot eventually required to decide it. And unfortunately for the home side, this shootout doesn't go as well for them as the one that ended MLS Cup 2022: León continue to show their quality and tenacity as they did in Leg 1, and edge LAFC on penalties.
The Leg 1 script gets flipped, with LAFC racing out to a 2-0 lead before Club León pull one back late. To extra-time they go, 3-3 on aggregate, before penalty kicks are required, only for John McCarthy (just like he did in MLS Cup 2022) to again play the hero in front of the 3252.
LAFC's players and staff have too much talent – and too much experience in big games – to sleepwalk through this second leg in the same way they did for much of the first. Their midfield will make better decisions in the final third, they'll keep slightly better control of the ball, and their attackers will benefit from the extra touches and space that come from those things.
Hope springs eternal in the hearts of Steve Cherundolo’s men, who left Mexico with a 2-1 loss to León they were (in Cherundolo’s own words) lucky to have. A flailing loss, by a margin that should have been worse, is hardly a convincing precursor to ultimate victory in Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, I think a precursor to victory is what it will be. I suspect LAFC shift to a familiar force in their home fortress, taking the tie to penalties with a 2-1 scoreline of their own. We all know what John McCarthy can do in penalties from there.
This will hardly be a coronation, with León executing Nicolás Larcamón's game plan and finding a goal. But fueled by the 3252 and man-on-fire Dénis Bouanga, LAFC can get the pair they need, push it to penalties and replicate the 2022 MLS Cup final with a win.
I believe LAFC will win 2-0. They will score an early goal; that will let them control the game and eventually score a second one.