LAFC translated their on-field dominance to the console on Sunday evening, with the team of Adama Diomande and eMLS pro RemiMartinn winning the first episode of eMLS Tournament Special presented by Coca-Cola and PlayStation.
The pair won a memorable El Trafico showdown that also featured the LA Galaxy's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, while Diomande's big win over Chicago Fire FC's Francisco Calvo in the first leg of the final all but assured LAFC of a win.
Here's how it all played out:
Game 1: Chicago Fire FC vs. FC Cincinnati
Before the virtual El Trafico got underway, these two Eastern Conference teams kicked things off with a nail-biting encounter that shows just how much the equation can change when you add an MLS player into the mix.
Representing FC Cincinnati on the eMLS side, of course, was Fiddle, who has dominated the scene in 2020 by winning eMLS League Series One and Two and paired up with FCC defender Kendall Waston. Fellow Costa Rican Calvo stepped up for Chicago on the player side, joining gamer BITW7, who was coming off a strong showing at eMLS League Series Two in February.
The two Ticos kicked things off with a thrilling affair that saw Calvo come up with a big early penalty save on Waston. The pair traded some well-worked goals in a back-and-forth first half, but Chicago took over in the second period, with Calvo finding the net twice to hand BITW7 a 3-1 aggregate lead.
The Chicago gamer looked for a long stretch of the second leg that he might hold that aggregate lead, keeping Fiddle on the back foot during a scoreless first half and into the second. However, Fiddle showed why he's the best player on the eMLS circuit these days, scoring not one, but two goals in the dying minutes of the game to claim a 2-0win and tie it up 3-3 on aggregate.
With the aggregate scores even after two legs, things headed to a tiebreaker in the form of a third match pitting Waston and Calvo against each other once more, this time under golden goal rules (i.e. 'first goal wins'). Neither managed to find the net in the first half, but it didn't take long in the second half, as Calvo took advantage of a favorable rebound to hammer home the goal that gave Chicago a dramatic 4-3 aggregate win and a ticket to the final.
Game 2: LA Galaxy vs. LAFC
Perhaps the most anticipated match of the night came in first leg of the Galaxy-LAFC semifinal, which pitted Chicharito and Diomande. It was Diomande who got the better of the Mexican superstar, but only just. The two rivals were certainly having a good time together in the early stages, with Diomande's aggressive style and some early nerves from Chicharito making for some entertaining scenes, though no goals.
That changed early in the second half, as Diomande capitalized on a cheeky chipped ball over the top, using none other than himself to control the bouncing ball and slam it home.
That goal, and a few close calls not converted by Chicharito, gave LAFC a 1-0 aggregate lead heading into the matchup between eMLS players.
Things opened up a bit more when RemiMartinn took on his Galaxy counterpart, Godfather, and the story ended up being the same it's been so far in 2020. Godfather got Chicharito hyped with an early goal to bring things level on aggregate, but RemiMartinn was able to grab one back and restore the aggregate lead late in the first half.
The eMLS newcomer then scored two more unanswered, ensuring there would be no third game this time as LAFC picked up the 3-1 win on the day, advancing 4-1 on aggregate to a final showdown with Chicago and earning the right to throw a little trash talk at their city rivals.
Final: LAFC vs. Chicago Fire FC
After some very tight encounters between MLS players, Diomande put together a spectacular performance to put LAFC on course for the title. The superemely confident Norwegian forward never looked like losing, with his high-tempo game and strong ball skills causing trouble for Calvo and earning him a one-goal lead at halftime.
It was more of the same in the second half, with Diomande grabbing another goal early on and pouring it on with two strong finishes to well and truly bury the Fire, winning 4-0. In a tournament where MLS players were always going to be the big wild card coming in, Diomande clearly showed himself as a cut above the rest.
It was always going to be a tall task for BITW7 to overturn a four-goal deficit, and though he scored a spectacular goal to cut the aggregate deficit to three going into halftime, RemiMartinn turned it on in the second half and eventually scored two late goals, giving him a 2-1 win and LAFC a 6-1 aggregate win that emphatically sent them through to the final stage of the tournament on May 17.
The eMLS Tournament Special, part of MLS Unites, is five-week long FIFA 20 tournament that pairs 16 MLS players with their team's eMLS pro, with the first four weeks' winners vying for the championship in the fifth and final episode. Episodes air on Sundays at 7 pm ET on FS1 and FOX Deportes through May 17. After each episode, MLS WORKS, the league’s social responsibility platform, and FOX Sports will make a donation on behalf of the winning club to Feeding America, with MLS also supporting Food Banks Canada.