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Preview: Club León vs. LAFC

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Black-and-gold make Concacaf Champions League debut.

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Finals-Seattle Sounders FC at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, the 2020 season is here for Los Angeles Football Club, who make their competitive debut Tuesday night in Concacaf Champions League, with a meeting in Guanajuato, Mexico against Liga MX outfit Club León.

The teams will play a home-and-away series, with LAFC getting the return leg a week from Thursday in Los Angeles. But first, they must look to keep up with Club León, who were atop their domestic league standings last week, but have dropped to third place after a 3-1 road loss on Friday.

Playing in Champions League is a tricky proposition for any team in MLS — switch off your concentration for a second, and you can be irrevocably punished for it. Add to it the uneven preparation for the teams, with León six matchdays into their league season and LAFC starting their domestic campaign in just under two weeks, and the myriad factors — fitness, form, quality of opponent, altitude, etc. — make it tough for MLS teams to succeed.

But the bottom line is that LAFC have set the bar for themselves to always aim to succeed, and supporters are certainly hoping for big things from the club in their first foray into CCL. Yes, LAFC have the toughest draw on paper coming in (it’s true!), but the counterargument is that LAFC was the best team in MLS over the course of the season in 2019 — León should be scared of them! Time will tell.

LAFC look pretty solid all around, arguably deeper in attack and midfield than ever before (although having both Adama Diomande and Bradley Wright-Phillips guaranteed out for this series due to injury is a blow, for sure, and Mark-Anthony Kaye appearing to get few to no minutes in preseason leaves one to wonder if he can go in this series), possibly an upgrade in goal, although time will tell if Kenneth Vermeer is the expected upgrade, but defense is a concern. LAFC traded away one of their top defenders last week, in Walker Zimmerman, maybe not on a whim but certainly in a hurry, by their own admission, and with Steven Beitashour unsigned, it appears Tristan Blackmon is expected to start at right back and center back simultaneously? I kid, I kid, but they truly appear to be one starting-caliber player short in the back, and hoping the depth will come through, on the road, in the first game of the season, is an enormous risk.

What’s the aim for LAFC in this game? Obviously the ideal is a win, but having it be a two-game aggregate series, if they can get a draw they’ll likely be satisfied. If they lose by just a goal in León, there will be hope they can overturn the deficit at home. If they lose by multiple goals? The second leg is likely to be a true slog, with little hope.

Can LAFC shock Concacaf with a result in León? Can they start their 2020 season with a positive performance in some trying circumstances? Will they be hazed into the tournament like so many MLS teams have been before them? We’ll find out on Tuesday night. The game is scheduled for 7 pm PT, on FS2 and TUDN in the United States.

What do you think? Can LAFC grab a result against Club León or will they learn a hard truth about being Concacaf’d? Let’s hear your projections in the comment section below!