LAFC are into the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final against Tigres UANL, beating Club America 3-1 in Saturday night’s second semifinal during a match that featured two red cards, Las Aguilas manger Miguel Herrera being sent off and Carlos Vela bagging his second brace of the continental tournament to give the Black & Gold their third win over Liga MX opposition in this season's competition.
It’s the first time that a Major League Soccer team has reached the CCL final since Toronto FC in 2018. The Montreal Impact also made the 2015 final and Real Salt Lake advanced to the 2011 title game, but those three MLS clubs all fell short against Liga MX foes.
Club America first grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when Sebastian Caceres flicked home a corner kick at the near post. That was their high mark before dropping a second straight CCL game, having lost 1-0 to Atlanta United in Leg 2 of their quarterfinal series three days prior.
The tensions began flaring in first-half stoppage time when Eduard Atuesta appeared to be fouled by Richard Sanchez for a penalty kick. Head referee Juan Gabriel Calderon didn’t point to the spot and instead sent Atuesta off after the LAFC midfielder and Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa came together. Replays showed that Atuesta made little contact, if any, on Ochoa, but LAFC were still down to 10 men as they entered halftime.
Facing a 1-0 hole, LAFC quickly erased that in the second half when Vela scored twice in a 72-second span. The 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP equalized at 1-1 in the 46th minute when capitalizing on a turnover from Caceres, scoring 13 seconds after play resumed.
Club America seemed somewhat stunned, and then Vela gave LAFC a 2-1 lead in the 47th minute by latching onto an Eddie Segura long ball. Just like with his first goal, Vela finished low and hard to the far post, beating Ochoa with a left-footed shot.
With Club America chasing a late equalizer, LAFC iced the game in the 95th minute through Latif Blessing. The Ghanaian midfielder knocked home a rebound after Rossi's breakaway attempt, securing the 3-1 result and ensuring LAFC would reach the final.
The game finished at 10 men apiece after Club America midfielder Luis Reyes was shown a straight red card in the 79th minute. He launched into Diego Rossi in the corner with studs shown, resulting in a dismissal.
A subplot to the entire second half was Herrera coaching from the stands, first near the field and then being instructed to go further toward the Exploria Stadium concourse. Piojo was sent off at halftime as the sideline temperatures rose, and he was spotted on the TV broadcast using a walkie talkie to convey instructions.
- 11' – AME – Sebastian Caceres | WATCH
- 46' – LAFC – Carlos Vela | WATCH
- 47' – LAFC – Carlos Vela | WATCH
- 90'+5' – LAFC – Latif Blessing | WATCH
THE BIG PICTURE
: In their third year as a club, LAFC have reached the Concacaf Champions League final. They’ve marched on by beating three straight Liga MX teams, first
in the Round of 16, then
in the quarterfinals and now Club America in the semifinals. No MLS team has ever beaten three teams from Mexico in the competition, but does a fourth conquest await? That’s the challenge before Bob Bradley’s team when facing Tigres UANL midweek. Emerge victorious and they'll become the first MLS team to win CCL under the competition's current iteration.
- LAFC: Dec. 22 vs. Tigres UANL (10 pm ET | FS2, TUDN in US) | 2020 Concacaf Champions League Final