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LAFC get first taste of opponent antics in Concacaf, but ride out adversity

Bradley tells his team to “be smart” in CCL clashes.

Soccer: 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League - Semifinals-Club America (MEX) at Los Angeles FC (USA) Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a term in Concacaf, called “being Concacaf’d.”

It means a team using every trick in the book to try and throw the opponent off. Failing to cut the grass for a few weeks. Wasting time starting in the 10th minute. Trying your hardest to draw a red card by any means necessary.

LAFC had their first induction into a time-honored tradition Saturday, in the Concacaf Champions League semifinal against Club América.

After drawing a yellow card on Diego Palacios midway through the first half that some referees would have considered retaliation and sent the player off, Club América smelled blood and sought to throw LAFC off their game the rest of the half.

Scuffles broke out, and in first-half stoppage time, they found their target, with a scuffle between América goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta resulting in a red card for the Colombian, to considerable shock.

This view is probably the best one showing a head butt move by Atuesta to get Ochoa, standing over him and putting his head in Atuesta’s face, to get away from him.

Was that enough for Ochoa to hit the deck and need medical attention? Of course not.

After the game, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said he’d been told it was an unjust decision.

“I’ve gotten a lot of text messages from people who have seen replays. Some from people who saw exactly who initiated the problem between Ochoa and Eduard, I’ve been told by many people that Eduard didn’t do anything. So, I’ve not seen it yet, but man, I’ve got so many messages,” he told reporters in the postgame press conference.

When these two were having their tiff in América’s box, the rest of the players were headed downfield with the Liga MX side initially on a counterattack, with Carlos Vela smartly committing a foul to arrest América’s progress.

As a result, midfielder Jose Cifuentes said the other players were unsure of what was happening between Atuesta and Ochoa.

“We didn’t see much,” he said via an interpreter. “We were actually more focused on the game, scoring the goal to level the game.”

After the halftime kerfuffle, which also included a fight between LAFC assistant coach Ante Razov and América manager Miguel Herrera, both men being sent off, LAFC quickly took the lead with a quickfire brace from Vela and they held on for the 3-1 win.

“We remained patient and calm at halftime,” said Cifuentes. “And thankfully we were able to get that first goal, and obviously from there we stayed together throughout and gave our all to get the result that we needed.”

An LAFC spokesperson told Angels on Parade after the match when asked that they were looking into if Concacaf has a red card appeal process, and if they do, whether or not the club will appeal Atuesta’s red card, since he will otherwise be suspended for Tuesday’s final against Tigres.

And amid a first-time encounter with the tricks of the trade in Concacaf, which ultimately did not cost LAFC on the night, Bradley said the lesson had to be for his side to not get sucked into mind games and opponent’s antics.

“The attempt to just to use that as a way of trying to get the edge in the win, you know you got to be smart enough,” he said. “We were saying from the beginning on our side, play the game, be smart, don’t be naive and don’t get caught up with all of the other stuff going on. So I can’t speak to the rest but I think our guys handled things well.”

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