If LAFC were going to go down in the Concacaf Champions League, they were going to do it their way.
Knowing one away goal from Club Leon would require LAFC to score at least four goals against Liga MX's second-place team, head coach Bob Bradley not only refused to play a little more cautious, he pressed further down on the throttle.
LAFC pressed, re-pressed and harassed Leon at the Banc of California Stadium on Thursday night with caffeinated perpetual motion to the tune of a huge 3-0 win, behind a brace from Carlos Vela and a series-winner from Diego Rossi. It was just enough to rectify a 2-0 Leg 1 loss to advance to the CCL quarterfinals with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Disregarding caution and dialing up the tempo, for a team only six weeks into preseason preparations, is exactly how LAFC are moving on.
“We were committed to closing the ball down and making sure the game was harder," Bradley told reporters after the game. "We wanted to make it a hard game and we would push them out of their comfort zone. We wanted to make sure that no one was going to have an easy play. ... They’re a good team, they find ways to be in control in most of their games. From the beginning tonight, they didn’t like that tempo. That was the idea. We could push them, make the game go like that. It was an incredible effort from all our guys.”
HIGHLIGHTS: LAFC vs. Club Leon | February 27, 2020
Club Leon were expecting that sort of gameplan by LAFC, but still couldn't cope with the pressure.
“No, I wasn’t surprised because we had already organized ourselves for this, we had seen how they did during their season last year," Leon head coach Ignacio Ambriz said. "They didn’t win the championship but they had a great year. We love the intensity that LAFC brings and I was surprised the most about how my team wasn’t able to do or accomplish."
Bradley gives all the credit to his team for that, rather than Leon just having a bad day.
“It’s a credit to us," Bradley asserted. "They weren’t ready for it. They resorted to trying to waste time, embellishing plays but we were committed to playing the game, pushing the tempo. And it paid off for us.”
As the club look to break ground in CCL, their road doesn't get any easier. They face another Liga MX side, Cruz Azul, in the quarterfinals and the winner sets up a clash against either Club America or Atlanta United in the semifinals. With this wind behind them, they're not short on confidence.
“We knew that it was very important for us to do in this game and I think a lot of teams counted us out and now they’ll be looking at this game thinking ‘wow LAFC is still LAFC and maybe even better,'" midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said. "I think that the way we accomplished this victory speaks a lot of confidence into ourselves.”