LAFC struggled to shake off the preseason rust and a late goal seriously dented their hopes of a Concacaf Champions League comeback as they fell 2-0 to Club Leon in Mexico in the first leg of their Round of 16 matchup.
Leon led from the 21st minute, but the goal LAFC conceded in the 88th minute could be the dagger in this two-legged series, as it means LAFC will most likely have to win by three goals or more in the return leg at Banc of California Stadium on Feb. 27.
The home side scored after a balanced opening to the game, when Jean Meneses cut inside from the left, faking a shot to the far post before firing in at the near post. LAFC nearly had an instant response, capitalizing on a turnover right off the kickoff only for Brian Rodriguez to roll his effort just wide after taking the ball around the goalkeeper.
LAFC continued to show signs of rust in the second half, but fashioned a chance in the 53rd minute when Diego Rossi put Francisco Ginella through on goal, only for the Uruguayan debutant to roll his finish wide of goal. However, LAFC were often nearly the architects of their own demise, with some sloppy play throughout the half giving Leon several decent looks of their own.
It finally came back to bite them late when a turnover in their own half resulted in a 3-on-1 advantage for Leon, with Luis Montes finding Angel Mena to comfortably beat goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer in the LAFC goal.
- THE BIG PICTURE: This is a tough one for the 2019 Supporters' Shield winners, who were clearly not quite as coordinated and polished in their movements and combination play in their first competitive game of 2020, while Leon were playing their seventh match. The result means LAFC have win at least 2-0 in the return leg to force extra time, and will have to win by three goals or more to advance if Leon manage to score an away goal.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Leon's first-half goal gave them the lead, but in the minute immediately after the restart the complexion of the series could have changed. Brian Rodriguez pounced on a brutal turnover by Leon off the kickoff, took the ball into the box and rounded the 'keeper, but he couldn't finish off the play. If his finish had been a few inches the other way — or had he squared to a wide-open Carlos Vela instead — LAFC might have been looking at a much more favorable result on the night.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: It's hard to pick out a standout LAFC performer on a night when many of their stars showed good flashes, but not the consistency to take over the match or to put together any serious spell of pressure. On the Leon side, Luis Montes had an influential night in the middle of park.
- LAFC vs. Leon: Thursday, Feb. 27 (10 pm ET | FS1, TUDN)
LAFC (4-3-3, left to right): Kenneth Vermeer — Diego Palacios (68' Mohamed El-Munir), Eddie Segura, Dejan Jakovic, Tristan Blackmon — Francisco Ginella, Mark-Anthony Kaye (62' Bryce Duke), Latif Blessing — Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi (76' Adrien Perez), Carlos Vela
Leon (4-2-3-1, left to right): Rodolfo Cota — William Tesillo, Ramiro Gonzalez, Stiven Barreiro, Fernando Navarro — Jose Rodriguez, Pedro Aquino (63' Leonardo Ramos) — Jean Meneses, Luis Montes (89' Saul Zamora), Angel Mena — Ismael Sosa (87' Jown Cardona)