LAFC alive heading into CCL Final 2nd leg, MLS Wednesday thoughts
June 01, 2023
IT IS TURNING INTO a busy week in American Soccer with the U-20 World Cup, the USMNT coaching shakeup, and the coming Nations League roster announcement. But on Wednesday there was a full slate of MLS games along with the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final – the top story of the day.
Let’s get right into it.
LAFC alive heading into 2nd leg
LAFC is a tough team to eliminate. This current version of the team seems to always find a way. Ask the Philadelphia Union how tough it was to put away LAFC in MLS Cup last November or in the CCL semifinal at home last month.
In the first leg of the Champions League final on Wednesday, LAFC did not play well, particularly in the first half.
In the 8th minute William Tesillo opened the scoring when his header beat John McCarthy. Then in first half stoppage time, VAR deemed LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead guilty of a handball in the box and Leon's Angel Mena converted the ensuing penalty for a 2-0 Leon lead at the break.
In the second half, Leon came close to scoring a third on multiple times. First, a McCarthy save in the 60th minute denied Mena his second of the game. Then in stoppage time, a Leon goal from Osvaldo Rodriguez was disallowed for a foul.
But then immediately after that disallowed goal, LAFC burst down the right side on a counterattack. Substitute Mateusz Bogusz moved the ball into the attacking third, played a ball into the middle where Denis Bouanga was able to finish from close range.
Bouanga now has 17 goals in all competitions for LAFC: 7 goals in 7 CCL games and 560 minutes, 10 goals in 12 MLS games and 920 minutes. That gives him a total of 17 goals in 19 total games across 1480 minutes.
The difference between heading back to LAFC down 2-1 as opposed to 2-0 is huge. LAFC will now return to favorable conditions at sea level. While most of the world as been moving away from the away goals rule, it counts in the CCL and a 1-0 win for LAFC would be enough to win the title.
One thing is obvious, LAFC needs to play better, and they are extremely fortunate to be trailing by only one goal (while now having an away goal). The only LAFC player who played well over the first 90 minutes was McCarthy who made a series of big saves.
LAFC manager Steve Cherundolo was frank after the game and said the 2-1 scoreline "was extremely lucky for us."
But he also said that while things need to be much better, he had faith in his group for the return leg on Sunday in Los Angeles.
“The performances of every individual out there, the performance of the group as a group, needs to be much, much improved," said Cherundolo. “We’re also fit enough to put in a much better performance on Sunday and this team knows exactly what’s at stake. I'm 100% positive that our performance on Sunday will be much improved."
Managers will always express faith in his team between legs but there are legitimate reasons for Cherundolo and anyone else to be optimistic for LAFC chances. For one, whenever MLS teams play Liga MX teams, the differences between the level of performances MLS teams have had at home compared with in Mexico is stark.
With LAFC having a true veteran presence, they survived Mexico (barely, but they survived) and they will know what is needed in leg two.
LAFC also has momentum. When Bouanga scored the late goal, LAFC knew the significance and the crowd in Leon also knew what had transpired.
Leon no longer has the edge and neither does LAFC. It’s completely up for grabs.
Thoughts on Wednesday MLS games
Here are some thoughts on the Wednesday MLS games.
Atlanta 3-3 New England
Atlanta United and New England played to an exciting but occasionally sloppy 3-3 draw in Atlanta. Both teams conceded goals through ugly errors, the ugliest coming on a dreadful mistake in the back from Brad Guzan.
In the end, it was a good result for the Revs who were significantly outplayed but found a way because Carles Gil was the best MLS player on the day with two goals – including the stoppage time equalizer.
THAT'S MY CAPTAIN!— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) June 1, 2023
(It's the commentary for me.) pic.twitter.com/I0Plly5WeW
Atlanta United should be very frustrated. They had 72% of the possession, completed 620 passes, and had 20 shots. New England had 28% of the possession, 185 completed passes, and five shots.
This game was just a snapshot, however. If Atlanta plays like this most of the time the remainder of the season, they will win a lot of games. On the other hand, New England will struggle if they need heroics Gil like this. He’s a great player, but he can’t save the team.
Inter Miami 0-1 RBNY
There was quite a bit to unpack from Wednesday’s game in Florida between two teams not in the playoff positions.
For one, RBNY is getting healthy, and results are starting to go their way. Their offense is still struggling, but unlike earlier in the season, the close results are starting to go their way. Troy Lesesne has made incremental changes since he took over from Gerhard Struber. Nothing had been groundbreaking but where they were losing or drawing close games, they’re now winning them. It’s a thin line, and they only needed to make modest improvements to start getting points.
They should continue to improve. Lewis Morgan is back, but when he starts it will be huge. Luquinas is a difference maker and his individual play dribbling through the defense created the game’s only goal after his shot fell to Tom Barlow for a tap-in. Frankie Amaya is also a huge boost in the midfield. Dante Vanzier remains a question mark and, even beyond his ugly suspension, on the field he seems to overcomplicate things.
The Red Bulls aren’t going to be great unless they make significant offensive upgrades. But their defense is going to make them a tough out, and they don’t make too many mistakes. There should be a good chance that they’re once again in the postseason.
As for Miami, Phil Neville’s seat is now getting hot. Fans are calling for his removal and he acknowledges that the results have not been good enough. The team has never been able to respond well to the Gregore injury and soccer, team’s can never crumble to this extent when one player falls.
It’s time for Jorge Mas, David Beckham and Chris Henderson to speak.— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) June 1, 2023
None of them have talked in months, and things are getting ugly in South Florida.
We’ve all seen Phil Neville struggle but they haven’t said why they still believe in him.
????: @deportetotalusa#InterMiamiCF pic.twitter.com/PH6tsnLyl9
But Neville wants to take the blame and deflect it from the players, especially the young players.
“Please, just come for me,” Neville said. “Don’t kill one of our own, don’t dump one of our own. Just come for me…. Don’t go for one of my boys, don’t go for one of my young kids because that hurts, that’s personal.”
Philadelphia 1-0 Charlotte
Philadelphia was the preseason favorite in MLS but stumbled out of the gate. They’re now humming along nicely with six wins and a draw in their last seven games. The 1-0 win over Charlotte on Wednesday was important because Charlotte came into the game winning four of five games.
One of the important takeaways is that Jim Curtin is shifting to a three-man backline with three central defenders in Jacob Glesnes-Jack Elliot-Damion Lowe. This has opened up the team to play with more width compared with their more traditional narrow-diamond formation. It also opens the door for Brandan Craig to play when he returns from the U-20 World Cup, where he is impressing.
Gazdag forces an own goal off of CLT's GK to give us the 1-0 lead in the 70th minute! ??— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) June 1, 2023
Watch free with #MLSSeasonPass on @AppleTV: https://t.co/WJERIj1sub#DOOP | #PHIvCLT 1-0 pic.twitter.com/TLn6HuVOv3
But Curtin insists that this isn’t new fixed way of playing, but rather they are flexible.
"So I watch teams like Brentford, and I watch what Brentford does,” said Curtin. “When they play at home, they play a certain way similar to how we play: 4-4-2 diamond, where we go and we get after the game, and we high press against certain teams. When they go on the road, and they play against the top six teams, if you look at it, they play in the back five. They're a little more stable, they take a little less risk, but they also get points against the top teams. So I'm not saying we're a lower team, but I also know that we're a team that that’s something we can go to.”
Meanwhile, Charlotte is fine. They’re improved from last year and have been playing well, including this game despite the loss.
RSL 2-3 LAG
Galaxy posted an emotional 3-2 win on the road over Real Salt Lake. It came on the same day the Galaxy announced they fired team president Chris Klein.
But in this game, the Galaxy played up to their potential for the final 20 minutes. The equalizer from Memo Rodriguez was one of the best goals of the night in the league and Tyler Boyd later found the winner.
The Galaxy is no longer in last place right now and are even on points with the woeful Colorado Rapids. The is often an emotional boost to a team whenever there is a shakeup, and the team still needs a lot of work. But this performance was a reminder that the team can play well if they’re up to the sum of their parts.
Seattle lost at home to San Jose 1-0 and the Sounders have now lost three of four games. The Sounders are without Jordan Morris and they’re an older team right now. Yes, they’re in first place but there are still signs about why this team struggled in the second half of 2022 after the CCL.
It’s a long season. Meanwhile, Luchi Gonzalez continues to impress at San Jose. The Quakes needed and still need a lot of work, but fifth place and 22 points from 15 games is a sign of progress.
Columbus was simply too much for Colorado in a 3-2 win at home. The scoreline made it seem closer than it was. Colorado is just bad right now. They’ve lost five in a row and there is little hope of them turning it around. Is Robin Fraser on the hot seat? That’s tough to see, buy maybe.
DC United played Montreal to a 2-2 draw with Montreal against their old boss Hernan Losada. These are two teams hovering around the playoff line but neither looked like a postseason team in this game.
New York City lost at home to a much better FC Cincinnati team. Cincinnati got goals from star players Brandan Vazquez and Luciano Acosta. Cincinnati played like a good team, but it is starting to get alarming with New York City. NYCFC was strong to start the season but now they’ve tumbled to 14th place of 15.
Cool and calm from the spot. ???? pic.twitter.com/MUvK9TJR7Q— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 1, 2023
The boo birds were out in Toronto after a 0-0 draw at home with Chicago. Chicago is playing like Chicago. Toronto is flat out disappointing and they’re paying a lot for that disappointment. Bob Bradley is under serious pressure now.
ICYM my latest for TFC Republic --— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) May 31, 2023
Who is ultimately responsible for Toronto FC's current situation?
There's plenty of blame to go around at #TFCLive right now. Still, there's no getting around this fact: coach Bob Bradley is firmly on the hot seat. https://t.co/68hnK8AgSB
FC Dallas had a disappointing 2-1 loss on the road to Sporting KC. After a poor start, SKC is staring to climb with two straight wins. Dallas is still strong in the West but is now winless in three games.
Austin posted a 2-1 win over Minnesota, but Austin didn’t play well and was lucky to escape with a win. But they’re playing better than at the start of the season and now have three wins in four games. Minnesota should be okay despite the loss. They’re still getting results without Emanuel Reynoso, who should be returning in full force this summer.
Finally, Vancouver blew Houston out 6-2 in Canada. Vancouver looks like a postseason team and Brian White now has six goals on the season. Julian Gressel is doing a great job feeding the attack.
Dual National Panic
On the broadcast, Taylor Twellman said that New England start teenager Noel Buck was going to be called up to England's U-18 team for a camp. Buck, 18, has been one of the top breakout young players in MLS this year and is expected to be a big part of the U.S. U-20 eam next cycle. Now, maybe the Revs do not release Buck for the camp and he doesn't attend. But he's on England's radar and that could make this an open question. Buck was raised in Massachussets