When it comes to soccer games, and particularly finals, a kind bounce in one direction can make all the difference.
It may not have been a single bounce in the end for LAFC that led to a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Tigres in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final Tuesday at Exploria Stadium, but a few crucial moments turned the tide and LAFC are headed home without the title.
For an 11-minute stretch, LAFC held the lead, Diego Rossi’s goal just after the hour mark giving them the upper hand in the match, but two goals from Tigres flipped the game, and after the game head coach Bob Bradley admitted his team ran out of gas after pressing the Liga MX opponent hard for most of the game.
“We’re very disappointed,” he told reporters in the postgame press conference. “I thought for 70 minutes we we made the game very hard for them. You know it’s a choppy game, it’s not always that the football is perfect, but I thought our way of going after them and pushing the game for 70 minutes was quite good.”
Tigres found the equalizer in the 72nd minute off a corner kick, the second straight game LAFC conceded off a corner, right after Carlos Vela had his best chance of the night blocked in the box.
Making the equalizer more agonizing was midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye had a chance of clearing it off the line, but it squirted through.
From there, the momentum was all in Tigres’ favor and Bradley said it was evident LAFC were chasing the game, and then Tigres scored their go-ahead goal in the final 10 minutes.
“You could tell at that point now we start to get a little bit more careless, a little slower to close things down. And we have so many guys back in position but we just don’t do a good enough job, you know [Luis] Rodriguez gets through and, you know, [Andre-Pierre] Gignac is a smart player so he’s just waiting for the moment and then the ball gets rolled across and it’s an excellent finish.”
Still, in spite of the disappointment at the result, Bradley said he thinks the team is making progress, as their run to the CCL final in their first time in the competition indicated.
“Our team’s growing, you know we we played some really good football in some of these games. And as I said I thought our way of going after the game tonight was was real good. And some of them it’s not our sharpest but still the mentality to play in a final and push the game. That’s important,” he said.
When asked if he was considering tweaking the attack-centered, front-foot style that has been LAFC’s trademark across three seasons, Bradley predictably said he will not be altering the fundamental style moving forward.
“You’re always trying to add ideas and improve but the football that we play we’re proud of. So it’s not like all of a sudden, you say okay we’ve got to change everything,” Bradley explained. “You know, one of the things that I’ve learned a long time is when you have a team and you establish a way of playing and you establish an identity, and if all of a sudden a game doesn’t go your way, when you have a period where you’re not quite as good. It’s not like you then say ‘Alright forget that, we’re going to try something different.’ That’s bullshit. That’s not how you ever become a good team.
“Or you become a good team when you have real football ideas, and everybody’s committed to the work and then every time you continue to try to to get better, you know, to make players better and then as a team grow. In addition to the mentality and the ability to compete and play in tough games. So those are the things that I think are happening for us. Every team can decide how they want to do things, how they want to play. We feel very good about what we’re doing. And we’re going to continue to move forward with that,” Bradley added.
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