Los Angeles Football Club executed their greatest win in their short history Saturday, playing down a man for nearly a half and coming from behind once more, to beat Club América 3-1 Saturday in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League semifinal in Orlando.
A brace at the start of the second half by Carlos Vela completely flipped the result for LAFC, and they will now play in the CCL final Tuesday to try and win their second major trophy all-time.
Bob Bradley named an unchanged starting XI for LAFC from Wednesday’s win over Cruz Azul in the quarterfinal round.
LAFC controlled the run of play in the opening minutes, but América had the first shot on goal, in the 8th minute, with Kenneth Vermeer easily blocking Leo Suarez’s shot. Moments later, Suarez fouled Diego Palacios, and the Ecuadorian smacked the América man’s leg, Palacios drawing a yellow card early on.
And then the Mexican side took the lead, in the 11th minute, as Sebastian Caceres headed in a corner kick from the near post to put América ahead 1-0.
Jose Cifuentes had a speculative chance on a counterattack in the 25th minute, but his bloop header off Palacios’ cross looped over the goal.
LAFC still dominated play in the first half, with Vela finally forcing a save from Guillermo Ochoa in the 38th minute, with a left-footed curler but a little farther out than he usually shoots them. A couple minutes later, Ochoa made a much tougher save, unsighted as Eddie Segura shot through traffic on a second chance from an LAFC corner kick.
The game completely devolved just before halftime. Eduard Atuesta appeared to draw a penalty, but his appeal was waived off. With América tearing down the field on the counterattack, Vela committed a foul to stop play. Meanwhile, Ochoa walked over to Atuesta, still down in his box, and attempted to get close to head butting the Colombian. After several minutes of arguing, the referee sent off Atuesta, which was a remarkable miscarriage, no bias.
América manager Miguel Herrera was tossed out at halftime, but stayed in the stands. Latif Blessing replaced Danny Musovski to start the second half for LAFC.
It looked like LAFC were close to being dead and buried, and then...kickoff for the second half. Vela scored a brace in two minutes, in the 46th and 47th minutes, to put the black-and-gold ahead 2-1.
The first goal, Vela stole the ball on a lazy pass in the back and beat Ochoa at the left channel.
Then he did almost the same thing again a minute later.
¡Doblete!— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) December 20, 2020
Carlos Vela le da la vuelta al partido con dos zarpazos y lo gana @LAFC ⚽
Síguelo aquí https://t.co/1OpjjnMPPf#SiempreAguilas I #TuCONCACAF I #SomosLAFC pic.twitter.com/01hFbKCoVS
From there, both teams split possession but obviously the impetus was on América again, as they were down a goal. They almost found the breakthrough in the 67th minute, only for Suarez’s wide open one-timer to miss the mark entirely.
América had a big chance in the 77th minute, with a free kick right outside the box, and Vermeer had to get low to stop Luis Reyes just in time, maintaining LAFC’s lead.
Moments later, Reyes was sent off deep in América’s corner for a studs-up tackle on Diego Rossi, taking the teams even at 10 players apiece. Blessing scored deep in stoppage time to ice the game once and for all.
From there, LAFC saw out the result with solid defending and good passing to while away the minutes. And now, they’re on the cusp of making history.
This was honestly a game of the highest highs and lowest lows. LAFC never really played badly in the match, but América’s antics were intended to mess with LAFC and they nearly derailed the MLS side, not accustomed to being messed around with in that way. But the halftime break and Vela’s heroics — alongside the rest of the cast doing their part to hold on with another good team performance — shows they are still a fantastic team, and overall, once again deserved the win against Liga MX opposition.
They’ll get one more of those teams to face, as they’ll take on Tigres UANL in the CCL final on Tuesday. It’s a one-game final, the winner takes the crown. LAFC are so close to history! What an incredible game, and the dream remains alive. This is amazing.
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