LAFC are through to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League semifinals, beating Cruz Azul 2-1 Wednesday night in a winner-takes-all quarterfinal matchup that resumed nine months after initially being scheduled for March.
The 2019 MLS Supporters’ Shield winners have 19-year-old Kwadwo Opoku to thank for keeping their CCL run going, with the Ghanaian forward scoring the game-winner in the 71st minute. He made it 2-1 with a scorching, left-footed volley into the bottom corner when a corner kick bounced to him on the edge of the 18-yard box.
While LAFC held a 15-7 shots advantage against their Liga MX foe, the clubs entered halftime knotted at 1-1 after trading first-half penalty kicks. Former Orlando City SC midfielder Yoshimar Yotun bagged a panenka in the 15th minute and then Carlos Vela slotted home in the 38th minute.
The Yotun PK came after Eddie Segura pushed Orbelin Pineda from behind on a breakaway, which arose following a Mark-Anthony Kaye turnover in midfield. As for Vela’s effort, the 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP was tripped up by Cruz Azul goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado after dragging his trailing leg on a dribble.
Before the PKs, LAFC could have opened the scoring in the 9th minute when Diego Rossi rattled the crossbar. Kaye also had a golden chance in the 33rd minute, but was denied by an onrushing Jurado as LAFC’s center mid pulled the shot to his favored left foot.
- 15' – CAZ – Yoshimar Yotun (PK) | WATCH
- 38' – LAFC – Carlos Vela (PK) | WATCH
- 71' – LAFC – Kwadwo Opoku | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Leg 1 of LAFC’s quarterfinal series with Cruz Azul never began when the COVID-19 pandemic first accelerated last March, so that prompted a one-off game. It suited Bob Bradley’s team well, as they beat their second Liga MX foe of the 2020 CCL tournament after previously defeating Club Leon in the Round of 16. LAFC suffered several key absences in their early Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs exit, but at full strength are clearly a handful. They’re the only MLS team left standing from the four CCL quarterfinals, as Atlanta United, Montreal Impact and New York City FC all bowed out.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Few MLS fans likely knew Kwadwo Opoku before this CCL quarterfinal, since he logged just 52 minutes in three substitute appearances upon being signed Oct. 5 out of the Attram De Visser Soccer Academy in Ghana. That’s all changed, with the teenager scoring a massive goal in LAFC’s early history.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Carlos Vela was the hub of LAFC’s attack, scoring for the third time in six games across all competitions. Had Vela been healthy during the 2020 season, one has to wonder what the Black & Gold could’ve accomplished.
- LAFC: Dec. 19 vs. Club America (10:30 pm ET | FS2, TUDN in US) | 2020 Concacaf Champions League Semifinals