Los Angeles Football Club have a date in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal set against Liga MX outfit Cruz Azul on Thursday night at Banc of California Stadium. Ahead of the first leg clash, let’s talk about three things to watch for in the game.
Good start required
This series is the reverse of the last CCL round for LAFC. Against Club León, LAFC had to go on the road in the first leg and weather the first 90 minutes as best they could, aiming to be within reach to win the series in the second leg, which they managed to do. This time, they can’t afford to get a narrow loss at home and hope to roar back on the road. Is that scenario possible? Sure, literally anything’s possible (more on that in a minute), but realistically if LAFC were to lose 2-0 at The Banc, the series would be effectively over based on past precedent in the tournament. So really, LAFC need a result, a win or at worst a draw, and then hope to hold Cruz Azul back in the away leg next week. We know LAFC can beat Liga MX opposition, but the order being home first and then away raises the stakes substantially this time around and makes it quite a bit more challenging, honestly.
Can the defense hold firm?
So far this year, LAFC have conceded 2, 0, 0, and 3 goals in each of their first four games, respectively. Five goals across four games is decent, not top level but really quite good.
But defense in a particular game can’t be judged by a cumulative average, it has to come down to a 90-minute performance. LAFC have had two very good defensive performances, a third decent one, in the opening game, and...a pretty bad one, honestly, in the last game. I wrote at length about Philadelphia Union being a likely unique matchup issue for LAFC, but unlike the Union, Cruz Azul have the talent to match up with LAFC and obviously the defense will have to be substantially better than they were on Sunday. If they aren’t, Cruz Azul could deal an embarrassing win in LA and the series could be over in one game.
Will the show go on like normal?
I’ll reiterate that on Monday an LAFC spokesperson told me no changes were expected for this game due to the spread of coronavirus, the game was expected to be held on time with a full crowd. I also do not expect Concacaf (who run CCL) to mandate any changes — let’s just say that would be rather out of character for them.
But with a slew of changes to gameday procedures in the United States announced beginning on Wednesday, from the next Seattle Sounders home game being postponed, to the next Golden State Warriors home game to be played behind closed doors, to Santa Clara County cancelling all public events over 1,000 people for the rest of the month, means the situation is escalating in the U.S. and I don’t think we can guarantee there won’t be last-minute changes, either restricting fans from the stands or postponing the game outright. Again, nothing has changed yet, and it may not affect Thursday’s game, but keep your eyes open because the news may move quickly, and to stop a pandemic, we may have to make a significant adjustment.
What are you thinking about for LAFC’s first meeting against Cruz Azul? Let’s chat in the comments below!