March 21, 2023


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

LAFC upsets Club América to reach CONCACAF final

For LAFC coach Bob Bradley, Saturday’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal offered his team a chance to salvage a disappointing season that was repeatedly interrupted by COVID-19, ahead of a first-round loss in the MLS playoffs.

It was an opportunity the team took full advantage off, using two second-half goals from Carlos Vela to beat Mexico’s Club América 3-1, giving LAFC the most important win in its short history.

LAFC will play Tigres of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, in Tuesday’s tournament final. Tigres got two penalty-kick goals from Andre-Pierre Gignac, one in each half, to beat Olimpia of Honduras 3-0 and advance to the championship game for the fourth time in five years.

Tuesday’s game will mark the first time LAFC will play for a title and Bradley’s team earned its invitation, surviving what should have been an attractive match between two of the most stylish teams in MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, but one that instead devolved into an ugly, physical one that saw LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta and Club América manager Miguel Herrera ejected before the start of the second half.

The difference once again was Vela, who was bumped, bruised and battered all night but fought back to score twice in the opening seconds of the second half to rescue a team that played the second half with just 10 men.

LAFC entered the resumption of the Champions League last week healthier than it has been since the tournament was suspended nine months ago and it showed flashes of its early-season form, with Vela leading the team to a quarterfinal win over Cruz Azul.

On Saturday América smothered him throughout the first half, holding him without a shot on goal until the 38th minute, when Vela’s left-footed try from outside the box died in the arms of América keeper Guillermo Ochoa.

In first-half stoppage time, Ochoa was involved in the play that arguably changed the game. With Atuesta writhing on the turf inside América’s penalty area after being kicked in the midsection Richard Sánchez, Ochoa bent over the LAFC midfielder and said something before softly patting Atuesta on the head.

Atuesta responded angrily, striking Ochoa, who embellished the incident by dropping to the ground and grabbing his face, earning Atuesta his red card. Moments later players and coaches from both sides exchanged pushes, shoves and unpleasant words, leading to the ejection of Herrera and a member of the LAFC coaching staff as the teams headed to their locker rooms.

Latif Blessing had a goal in stoppage time to finish the scoring for LAFC.