Monday’s soccer news starts with LAFC advancing to the final of the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. LAFC came back to beat Club America 3-1 on Saturday night with an energized performance from Carlos Vela. Club America took the lead in the 11th minute. A confrontation in first-half stoppage time saw LAFC’s Equard Atuesta exit early with a red card. Carlos Vela responded early in the second-half with goals in the 46th and 47th minutes. Club America also went a man down with a red card in the 79th. Latif Blessing finished off the LAFC goals five minutes into stoppage time.
“He does everything to help you manage a difficult team,” Bradley said of Vela. “He’s a great guy and an amazing player. He scores great goals, his ability. He is strong and has great balance and is not afraid of contact. We are lucky to have him around and you can tell he is really committed right now.”
Regardless of the situation, there’s no downplaying the work LAFC has done in this tournament. From getting to the quarterfinals in the first place, LAFC has shown a resiliency and fight when it mattered. That’s led them past three Liga MX teams with one more left on the schedule. Tigres knocked out Olimpia 3-0 on the other side of the bracket, with Olimpia going a man down in first-half stoppage time. Tigres converted that penalty and a second in the 57th. Olimpia gave up an own-goal in the 78th minute.
MLS had an opportunity in this adjusted and truncated version of the tournament. With a team in each of the four quarterfinals, only LAFC ended up getting through. Taking out Club America shorthanded is now the biggest result for an MLS club in the 2020 Champions League. Beating Tigres would become the biggest result for an MLS team this year in all competitions.
Call it the MLS version of the Premier League scenario from two seasons ago. Manchester City won the league, but Liverpool lifted the Champions League trophy. LAFC’s coronavirus issues limited their chances in the MLS playoffs. Without Vela, among others, they couldn’t get out of the opening round. With Vela and others, they’re playing for the Champions League title.
That may not end up flattering Columbus, who dominated Seattle at MLS Cup while also missing key players due to the pandemic. It’s that kind of season, one that could almost bizarrely end up with an MLS representative at the rescheduled Club World Cup.
Also in the soccer news, Atlanta United hired former Velez Sarsfield coach Gabriel Heinze. “I’m excited to be taking on this new challenge with Atlanta United,” Heinze said. “I believe that my football philosophy is aligned with the vision of the club and their structure and facilities are world-class. I can’t wait to meet the players, the staff and the fans and get to work in 2021.”
The NY Times’ Rory Smith looks at Manchester United’s upward trajectory. The Independent’s Arvind Sriram with Leeds not reconsidering its approach following a lopsided loss to Manchester United. The Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke asks if Spurs really have a squad advantage.
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Graphic courtesy of Concacaf