LAFC pulled off a Concacaf Champions League comeback for the ages, using a 3-0 win over Club Leon at Banc of California Stadium to overturn the aggregate goal count and book a spot in the quarterfinal round.
The Black & Gold entered the second leg trailing, 2-0, after playing in Mexico last week, and needed a near-perfect performance to keep the club's first CCL adventure alive. They got exactly that, with a Carlos Vela brace and chipped game-winner from Diego Rossi giving LAFC the 3-2 aggregate win. Cruz Azul, another Liga MX opponent, now awaits in the next round.
An up-tempo first half saw Vela earn LAFC the breakthrough in the 27th minute, when he bundled home a Diego Palacios cross at the near post for the 1-0 lead. The effort came two minutes after Vela’s apparent opener in the 25th minute was rescinded for an offside call in the attacking move's buildup.
Shortly after LAFC forward Adrien Perez entered as a substitute for Brian Rodriguez, LAFC found another gear. Vela drew them level, 2-2 on aggregate, in the 77th minute with another near-post finish, this time capitalizing on a low, driven cross from Tristan Blackmon.
With the possibility of a penalty-kick shootout looming, Rossi pulled off a ridiculous chip of Leon goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota for the 3-0 lead in the 79th minute. It dinked in off the crossbar, prompting mass celebrations at the Banc.
The game was incredibly physical, with the teams combining for nine cards. Leon midfielder Luis Montes was even shown a red card in the 94th minute for foul and abusive language, after his team was held to zero shots on target.
- THE BIG PICTURE: LAFC encountered the toughest draw of all five MLS entrants into the 2020 Concacaf Champions League, and then they found themselves in a 2-0 hole after the first leg. In years past, MLS teams may not have had enough in the tank to surpass a Liga MX foe in those circumstances. But the defending Supporters' Shield champs dug deep to pull off a memorable result, with Diego Rossi’s chipped effort already a legendary moment.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Was it a cross or was it a shot? Diego Rossi likely doesn’t care, because his lofted effort sent LAFC through to the CCL quarterfinals either way. The Uruguayan winger spent most of the game playing centrally, then provided a magical moment when he moved wide left.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Carlos Vela bagging a brace at home is almost expected, given the pace at which he operated in 2019. But to score twice in this fashion in a game of such magnitude? Coming up in big-time moments like this affirms why Vela is the reigning MLS MVP.
- LAFC: Sunday, March 1 vs. Inter Miami CF (5:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN5, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada)
- Leon: Sunday, March 1 at Chivas Guadalajara (6 pm ET)