To be completely honest with you, I’m still in disbelief at what we witnessed.
On Thursday night the Los Angeles Football Club – yes, the circumstances justify the full formal title – did what no MLS club has ever done in Concacaf Champions League. And it wasn’t just what they did, but how they did it.
In rallying from last week’s 2-0 loss in Mexico to overcome Club Leon 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, LAFC became just the second MLS team (out of eight in that position) to win a CCL series after a two-goal defeat in the first leg. That’s impressive. What makes it unforgettable was the style and mentality of this huge victory at Banc of California Stadium.
This was a full-throttle, damn-the-torpedoes thrill ride, the two-plus years of Bob Bradley’s bold SoCal project distilled into 90-plus intoxicating minutes.
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I'm astonished their relentlessness hasn't backfired and resulted in a counter, which is the classic dagger.— Douglas (@dreyesceron) February 28, 2020
This is crazy impressive from LAFC.
Relentless pressing and re-pressing, frantically bombing forward in numbers at every opportunity, playing daringly progressive, line-breaking passes in nearly every sector of the field in the face of breathtaking risks. Continually feeding the ball to the front line of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez, even as all three faded in and out of the game’s early stages and missed inviting chances.
This was a team intent on completing their own version of “La Remontada,” FC Barcelona’s iconic comeback from a 4-0 first-leg drubbing at Paris Saint-Germain in the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League round of 16 via a 6-1 home victory. And so they did.
Leon are a highly organized, intelligent and effective side, one of Liga MX’s very best at present, and they cleverly exploited LAFC’s aggression in the first leg. Even if the MLSers’ attack found its feet in the return leg, La Fiera needed only one away goal to regain the upper hand, which would’ve forced their hosts to win by a three-goal margin to advance.
So how did Bradley respond to this high-wire scenario? By doubling down on his philosophy and committing to go out guns blazing. They set aside the risks posed by LAFC’s young-ish and shorthanded back line by inspiring their players to pour out everything they had to maintain their preferred breakneck tempo.
I’ve been watching and covering CCL since before it was CCL – dating back to the days of its predecessor, Concacaf Champions Cup. I’ve never seen an MLS squad throw that much at a Mexican adversary for that long and with that level of dominance. It’s always been the Liga MX representatives who set the pace, who imposed their will and applied asphyxiating waves of pressure until the dam broke.
MLS teams have always gone into a second leg, get dominated but hang on for a long time, then concede a couple in the final 15 minutes. This is a #CCL tradition.— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) February 28, 2020
The tables were well and truly turned on Thursday, and you’ll have to forgive us old-timers who aren’t quite sure how to wrap our heads around it. That was a defining performance for the Black & Gold, and maybe for Bradley as well.
As usual, the reward for a job well done is another job. Cruz Azul await in the quarterfinals, and it will probably take another epic display to vanquish them. I’m not about to bet against this LAFC team, though. Are you?