When LAFC and the Philadelphia Union line up across from one another on the pitch, expect a few things without fail. There are always goals. The drama is never lacking. And 90 minutes is never enough to find a winner.
Kellyn Acosta leveled the score in the 90’+1’ of the first leg in Chester, Pennsylvania on April 26, but we’re still only at halftime of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal. The competition shifts to Los Angeles on Tuesday night for a decisive second leg.
Needless to say, Tuesday could be historic. But first, let’s set the scene.
After one leg, LAFC and the Union are tied at 1-1. But thanks to Acosta’s aforementioned away goal, LAFC holds the slightest of advantages heading into Leg 2 - the winner is decided by the aggregate score of both legs with away goals scored as the first tiebreaker. LAFC’s return home and the 90-plus minutes of energy the Black & Gold will receive from its Supporters undoubtedly widens that advantage. Call it an “intangible” advantage but it’ll be palpable on the night.
It’s a winner-take-all match. Whichever team wins on the night, by any number of goals - big or small - advances.
But even without a win, one way or another, a team is moving on after Tuesday night. A goalless draw after 90 minutes sees LAFC through due to the away-goals tiebreaker. A 1-1 draw sends both teams to a penalty shootout. While any other scoring draw (2-2, 3-3, and so on) gives the nod to Philadelphia on away goals.
It took LAFC more than 120 minutes and a penalty shootout to defeat Philadelphia in the 2022 MLS Cup. When all is said and done after two legs in this CCL semifinal, it could take more than 180 minutes and another penalty shootout to separate these two again and send one to the CCL final.
Big clubs play for big trophies. There are none bigger than the Concacaf Champions League trophy in North America.
Last season, LAFC and Philadelphia played for the biggest domestic trophy available. After Tuesday night, one of them will play for the biggest international trophy in the region.
Part of the magic of last season for LAFC fans was the chase for missing trophies. Finally securing MLS Cup after it eluded the record-breaking 2019 LAFC team was cathartic. But it also left one trophy outstanding in LAFC’s cabinet.
The Concacaf Champions League trophy was within LAFC’s reach at the end of 2020. The Black & Gold went on an unprecedented run of victories over three Liga MX sides (Léon, Cruz Azul, and Club América) to reach the final held in Orlando that year. A fourth Liga MX victory and MLS’s first CCL title wasn’t to be, as LAFC ultimately fell 2-1 to Tigres.
As luck would have it, there are some familiar faces in the other semifinal. Tigres holds a 2-1 advantage over Léon. LAFC and its fans would relish another MLS-Liga MX clash in the final. Plus, revenge is much sweeter when you raise a trophy at the end. While LAFC wouldn’t be the first MLS team to win CCL, it could become the first to do it while being the current Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup champions.
And with the CCL trophy comes another challenge. The CCL champions earn the chance to prove it on the world’s stage at the FIFA Club World Cup featuring winners of each confederation's premier competitions. We’re talking about LAFC taking on world heavyweights like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich with a world championship on the line.
No MLS team has won the FIFA Club World Cup or even reached the final. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Everything is riding on Tuesday night’s second leg. LAFC versus Philadelphia with a spot in the CCL final on the line.