Phew! LAFC survive CCL scare from Alajuelense, advance to quarterfinals


It wasn’t the smooth-sailing runout LAFC may have envisioned when they brought a 3-0 aggregate lead to BMO Stadium for the second leg of their Round of 16 Concacaf Champions League matchup against Costa Rica’s Alajuelense.

But a 2-1 home loss was still enough to see the Black & Gold through to the CCL quarterfinals, where they’ll take on a familiar MLS Western Conference opponent in Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

The first sign of trouble for LAFC came in the 8th minute when referee Adonai González went to Video Review after a shot from Alajuelense’s Alexander López careened off Giorgio Chiellini in the box. The resulting decision was a penalty kick converted by Giancarlo González and a yellow card for Chiellini, who was judged to have handled the ball.

LAFC didn’t appear too bothered, though, as they continued to pepper Alajuelense’s goal throughout the first half and the start of the second.

But outstanding saves from visiting goalkeeper Leonel Moreira only seemed to fuel his Costa Rican side, and in the 51st minute, the road team shocked BMO Stadium by scoring a second goal to narrow the aggregate score to 3-2. LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy parried a shot from distance back to the middle of the box, which allowed Aarón Suárez to pounce on the rebound for Alajuelense.

LAFC finally got the series-icing goal in the 83rd minute through club captain Carlos Vela, who slithered his way into the box on the dribble and found a crafty finish to give the home side the final 4-2 aggregate win.


  • 8’ — LDA — Giancarlo González (PK) | WATCH
  • 51' — LDA — Aarón Suárez | WATCH
  • 83' — LAFC — Carlos Vela | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Survive and advance. LAFC did what they needed to do and are through to the CCL quarterfinals, where they’ll match up against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The 2022 MLS Cup champions are on an MLS-heavy side of the bracket, with Liga MX’s Atlas, currently 16th in their domestic table, the only non-MLS club they could have to play before reaching the final. That bodes well for LAFC, who’ve brought last year’s MLS dominance into 2023 with a 2W-0L-0D start to the regular season.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: 19,000 hearts leaped into throats when Aarón Suárez scored a second goal to bring Alajuelense close to level on aggregate in the second half. LAFC may have won the series, but Suárez's goal provided the thrill of the night.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: It had to be Carlos Vela, and it had to be his left foot. Few things can be counted on in the world of soccer, and fewer still in CCL. But Vela’s ability to turn something out of nothing with his magical left boot remains consistent.

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