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Three thoughts from LAFC’s Concacaf Champions League opener vs. Club León

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Loss shows LAFC are not the unicorn of MLS.

Leon v LAFC - CONCACAF Champions League 2020 Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Listen, maybe on Feb. 27 Los Angeles Football Club will put up a terrific multigoal win to beat Club León and advance in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League.

But on Tuesday, in the teams’ first-leg opener of the knockout stage, it was more of the same, even if LAFC haven’t themselves experienced it, in a 2-0 loss at the Nou Camp in León.

Immediately coming out of the game, here are three thoughts:

Welcome to Concacaf

In order to be the best you’ve got to beat the best, and LAFC had to taste some bitter medicine in the opening loss. They looked like a team in preseason (true until this game), going against a team with some form (also true) and honestly, LAFC’s emergency defending and León’s wasteful nature in front of goal meant the series isn’t completely out of hand yet.

Every time a new MLS team enters CCL, there’s a feeling they might be the one to break the mold. After all, LAFC kind of broke the mold in MLS, right? Why not apply that to CCL? Well, we saw the challenge of that in this match. LAFC isn’t a unicorn, they were not only coming out of preseason, they were also missing at least two starters (Eduard Atuesta and Adama Diomande or Bradley Wright-Phillips, plus a likely Walker Zimmerman replacement whenever that happens) with several players who actually played few to no minutes in preseason with their teammates. Much of it may have been unavoidable but this performance was the single most disjointed one LAFC have ever had in a competitive game. I realize the opponent, timing and context, but it was Hard To Watch, no getting around it.

The not-so-good

I’ll caveat this list by saying it’s just one game, and even CCL isn’t completely lost yet, if LAFC can look much, much, much better next week. But here’s some of the issues on the night:

  • Carlos Vela started well but faded and was neutralized most of the night
  • Collectively, LAFC coughed up possession way too much, and in dangerous spots
  • The attack struggled to find rhythm. They did start connecting in the middle third of the game, but never really got in any kind of form as a group
  • Only one shot on target for LAFC
  • Mark-Anthony Kaye really struggled in this game. His energy and two-way game is a crucial part of what makes the team so potent, but his touch was off and his energy was well below what he usually provides
  • The midfield struggled to shield the defense for most of the game
  • LAFC got burned badly in defense on both goals, with León’s goals looking deceptively easy

Needless to say, it did not go well in the main for the black-and-gold.

The halfway decent

Now, here’s what was pretty good for LAFC on the night:

  • Francisco Ginella - Atuesta missing the game altogether was a big surprise but Ginella was calm and collected like no one around him. Multiple times, he stripped a León player on the edge of LAFC’s box and hit a quick outlet pass to a teammate to try and get out of danger. Probably would have been nice to have both Ginella and Atuesta (said to be rested on the night) in midfield to give LAFC some composure, but it was a good debut for Ginella that only would have been topped if he had scored an equalizer in the second half that bounced just wide.
  • Kenneth Vermeer let in two goals, yes, but it was a decent (emphasis on decent) debut. His aggression in coming off his line will likely lead to some hair-raising plays, but he made three saves and snuffed out a couple more chances by coming way, way out.
  • Emergency defending: It always sounds like an exaggeration to say “It could have been 6-0” but honestly, it could have easily been that. LAFC definitely rode their luck in defense all night long, and they got roasted twice, but they pretty much had a siege mentality for 90+ minutes and nearly got a narrow loss out of it. In particular, Dejan Jakovic had a solid game, considering he barely played last year.

For now, LAFC need to get up, shake off the dust, and get back to work ahead of the return leg a week from Thursday. We’ll see how it goes.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!