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Moving on! LAFC 3, Club León 0

Brace from Vela powers LAFC to advance in first CCL foray.

MLS: Club Leon at Los Angeles Football Club Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club entered Thursday’s Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 second leg match against Club León needing to overcome a 2-0 deficit and they did just that, in impressive fashion, as they won the match 3-0, to advance in the CCL quarterfinals on a 3-2 aggregate score.

After a first leg in which LAFC were so woeful they didn’t even register a shot on goal on the road, they completely turned the tables on León at Banc of California Stadium and ensured their first CCL foray won’t end in a single two-game set, after a brace from Carlos Vela and the all-important series winner from Diego Rossi.

LAFC started with 10 of the same 11 players they had in the first leg, the one change being Eduard Atuesta in for Francisco Ginella. I thought Ginella was excellent, perhaps the best player for LAFC in the first leg, but LAFC also very much missed Atuesta’s quality and his return was a welcome one.

LAFC came out substantially more sharp in the opening minutes of the game, and by the 20th minute the home side had six total shots (including three on target) to none for León.

After a scramble that somehow didn’t result in a goal, Vela put the ball in the back of the net in the 26th minute, after Rossi’s shot clanged off the post, but the assistant referee incorrectly ruled the run-up included an offside, and the goal came back.

However, they found the breakthrough in the 27th minute, as Diego Palacios hit a low cross on the second try into the box, and Vela had a savvy run at the near post, and persisted to make sure it got over the line to make it 1-0 in the game and 2-1 for the series.

Towards the end of the first half, Mark-Anthony Kaye halted a León counterattack near the center line, and was whistled for a foul. It could have been worse, as the call looked like a textbook yellow card, but Kaye was already on a yellow card in the game. Fortunately for LAFC, the referee opted not to give him a second yellow and send him off, which was frankly a big break for the home side.

Just before the hour mark, Eddie Segura attempted a snap half-volley off a corner kick with his left foot, but León goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota stretched out to block the shot and keep the game 1-0, as LAFC desperately tried to score their second goal on the night.

10 minutes later, Rossi nearly scored with a spinning scorpion kick off a diagonal ball into the box by Diego Palacios, but the effort went just over goal and Rossi was incorrectly called offside so it would not have counted anyway. Rossi had the best chance of the game then in the 71st minute, but the Uruguayan mishit the shot and it trickled wide of a completely open goal with Cota down on the ground.

LAFC finally, finally found the series equalizer in the 77th minute, with Tristan Blackmon setting up Vela, who scored his second of the night to make it 2-0 in the game and 2-2 on aggregate.

Then Rossi found the goal to flip the result in LAFC’s favor, in the 79th minute, as his delicate chip from a narrow angle nestled inside the far post and over the line to make it 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

To say this performance was impressive for LAFC would be an understatement. For this to be LAFC’s second competitive game of the year, with a not-insignificant deficit through the first leg, and to show just how good they can be was another impressive showing in LAFC lore from this group. It was a full team effort, but Vela and Rossi in particular showed off their superstar bonafides as they stepped up when their team most needed them.

The win is sweet, but LAFC won’t have much time to savor it as they open the MLS regular season Sunday afternoon at home against Inter Miami CF. Meanwhile, they’ll face another Liga MX side, Cruz Azul, in the quarterfinal round, with the opening game scheduled for the week of March 10. While the games will pile up, this is a rousing performance and one of the best wins LAFC have ever posted. Enjoy it for a good day or two.

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