LAFC cruises to CONCACAF Champions League final with 3-0 win vs. Union
Los Angeles Football Club is headed back to the CONCACAF Champions League final.
LAFC, the current MLS Cup holder and the runner-up in the North and Central American and Caribbean region in 2020, beat the Philadelphia Union 3-0 Tuesday and 4-1 on aggregate in the home and home, total goals series between the two foes, which also met in MLS’s championship last fall.
Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s contest:
LAFC cements status as MLS’s top team
Like that unforgettable MLS Cup last November, this series pitted the American/Canadian domestic circuit’s top two teams.
Supporters Shield-winning LAFC needed Garth Bale’s heroics, plus penalties, to claim the 2022 MLS title. As Tuesday’s score line suggests, this one was significantly more one-sided. Steve Cherundolo’s squad proved over the two legs that their dramatic win last November was no fluke. LAFC had already displayed the resilience of a champion in salvaging a 1-1 draw in stoppage time last week in Chester, Pennsylvania through Kellyn Acosta — near instant redemption for the penalty the U.S. World Cup midfielder had conceded minutes earlier.
This time, LAFC was the better team from the start. Already in possession of Acosta’s away goal tiebreaker, Timothy Tillman opened the scoring for the hosts just 13 minutes in:
LAFC had other early chances. So did the Union, the best of them sent just wide of Philly native and former Union backup keeper John McCarthy’s net by Dániel Gazda later in the first half. But the visitors just couldn’t find the equalizer, and in playing the last half hour with 10 men after defender Olivier Mbaizo was sent off for picking up a silly second yellow card, it was only a matter of time before the hosts got some insurance strikes. They arrived via Kwadwo Opoku and Denis Bouanga over the final eight minutes, including Bouanga’s backbreaker in the 90th:
With all due respect to Philadelphia, it’s clear that MLS is sending its best representative to the continental final. And LAFC is determined to get another crack at a FIFA Club World Cup berth after narrowly missing out on the title three years ago. With Seattle finally having broken Mexico’s two decade long dominance of the tournament last year, Carlos Vela and his teammates have to like their chances, too.
Plenty left to play for in Philly
Losing a third-straight high-stakes match to LAFC has to hurt for the Union, even if technically the MLS Cup loss officially counts as a tie. One consolation for Jim Curtin’s squad? They’re still one of the odds-on favorites to hoist MLS Cup at year’s end.
LAFC’s all-in commitment to international success this season compromises one of its biggest challengers, and Philly’s experience in last year’s postseason and the Champions League this year should pay off in the eliminating games to come.
With success in MLS now its clear priority, look for the Union to challenge FC Cincinnati and the New England Revolution atop the Eastern Conference before making another deep playoff drive.
Possible rematch with Tigres on tap for LAFC
LAFC will face the winner of Wednesday’s all-Liga MX semi between Tigres and Leon (10 p.m. ET, FS1). If the former, which has a 2-1 aggregate edge going into the decider, holds on to advance, it would set up a rematch of the 2020 CONCACAF finale that was won by Tigres following a late second half comeback.
Whichever opponent LAFC gets, the opportunity is enormous. The Sounders’ triumph a year ago proved not only that it can be done, but that little separates North America’s top two domestic leagues these days.
A second consecutive MLS win would make an even bolder statement before this summer’s Leagues Cup event involving all MLS and Liga MX clubs. More to the point, it could put LAFC just one win away from a marquee game against Manchester City, Real Madrid or one of the Milan giants later this year at the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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