News

Looking Back On Leagues Cup 

A scintillating start, a heartbreaking end, and plenty of valuable lessons

230811_MRY_MR_37

We’ve all had a few days to take in the 3-2 loss on Aug. 11 to Liga MX’s Monterrey.  As LAFC prepares to face Colorado on August 20 in a return to MLS regular season action, the question is: Has the sting worn off yet? 

One of the Los Angeles Football Club’s goals this season was to win the inaugural version of the Leagues Cup. But the result turned out differently, so a new opportunity has arisen— a chance to acknowledge the positives and assess the deficits within three performances that saw the Club, in the end, come up a goal or two short of advancing.  

This 2023 season— unmatched in MLS history in terms of the demands placed on LAFC’s players – marches on toward the pursuit of other trophies, informed by five things LAFC learned about itself over the last two weeks.

A LITTLE REST HELPS

LAFC scored 13 goals in its three Leagues Cup games—more than it scored in any other three-game stretch this season, across all competitions. LAFC scored more goals in its first Leagues Cup match (seven) than it scored in its previous five games combined. More than it scored in the entire month of June! (Five.) 

Bottom line: Against three quality opponents in Leagues Cup, LAFC’s attack did not resemble the one that struggled to score in four straight games from June 4 – June 14. 

The reason: The 17 days off that preceded LAFC’s Leagues Cup debut. That break followed a two-month span in which the club grinded through two matches per week due to its U.S. Open Cup and Concacaf Champions League calendar. 

Individually speaking, when Denis Bouanga scored his sixth goal in Leagues Cup (against Monterrey), he widened his lead over Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi in goals-scored-per-minute during the tournament. A recharged Bouanga tallied six goals in the 255 Leagues Cup minutes he played – one goal every 42.5 minutes. Messi has scored eight goals in 383 minutes – one every 47.9 minutes.

DEFENDING IS A STRENGTH

LAFC is known for its fast, direct, free-flowing style of play, but this season – and this competition – offers another reminder that the Club does a good job of keeping its net empty, as well.

LAFC came into Leagues Cup ranked third in MLS in goals conceded. It continued that trend during the Leagues Cup, allowing just five shots on goal during its 7-1 rout of Juarez, and not a single shot on goal in its 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the Round of 32. LAFC didn’t concede a shot on goal to Monterrey until the 44th minute (right after LAFC took a 2-0 lead).

Which means that at halftime of that quarterfinal match, LAFC had allowed just six shots on goal during the two-and-a-half games it had played in Leagues Cup to that point. A tiny number in a competition of this quality.

As we all know, the tide turned in the second half, with Los Rayados firing seven shots on target – more than LAFC had allowed in the preceding 225 minutes. It didn’t help LAFC’s cause that the club was without its mainstay at left back, Diego Palacios, who leads the Club in minutes played in 2023. Palacios’ absence was felt, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that LAFC’s other defenders (and midfielders and forwards) did their part to limit opponents’ chances.

NATHAN ORDAZ AND MATEUSZ BOGUSZ STEP UP

Nathan Ordaz doesn’t turn 20 until January, but there were moments against Juárez and RSL when LAFC’s homegrown forward looked like the most dangerous attacker on the field.

He was put in a challenging position against Monterrey, coming on in the 79th minute, moments before Monterrey tied the game. But even in the waning seconds, when LAFC was searching for an equalizer, the Pride of Van Nuys showed no quit.

Speaking of youth, Mateusz Bogusz, who turns 22 next week, had a major break-out during Leagues Cup. The Polish newcomer made a consistent impact, logging two assists against RSL and showing up all over the field against Monterrey, bothering Los Rayados with defensive pressure and relentless attacking. The Black and Gold missed its captain, Carlos Vela, who was injured against Juárez and missed the two ensuing matches, but Bogusz stepped in and filled Vela’s playmaker role in his own way.

LAFC VS. LIGA MX

In its five-and-a-half years of existence, LAFC has played nine non-friendlies against Liga MX teams. LAFC has won four of those games and lost five, outscoring opponents 19 goals to 13. Remove the statistical outlier from those matches – LAFC’s lopsided win over Juárez – and the goals are still even, 12-12.

LAFC VS LIGA MX
FEB 2020
LAFC 0:2 LEÓN
FEB 2020
LAFC 3:0 LEÓN
DEC 2020
LAFC 2:1 CRUZ AZUL
DEC 2020
LAFC 3:1 AMÉRICA
DEC 2020
LAFC 1:2 TIGRES
MAY 2023 
LAFC 1:2 LEÓN
JUNE 2023
LAFC 0:1 LEÓN
AUG 2023
LAFC 7:1 JUÁREZ
AUG 2023
LAFC 2:3 MONTERREY

The painful losses in two Champions League Finals and the Leagues Cup mean that everyone associated with LAFC knows the record is not good enough, but when we consider that LAFC has only been at this for half a decade, while its most tradition-rich Liga MX opponents were founded in 1960 (Tigres), 1945 (Monterrey), 1944 (León), 1927 (Cruz Azul), and 1916 (América)— these results take on new context.

Which brings us to—

THE BIG PICTURE

LAFC outscored its opponents in Leagues Cup, 13 goals to 4. Earlier this year, the Black & Gold scored 15 goals in the Concacaf Champions League. Its opponents scored six. 

LAFC advanced to the final in the two most prestigious competitions it has appeared in over the last year (2022 MLS Cup and 2023 Champions League).

A solid foundation has been laid. An expectation to win has been set. The cornerstones are in place, the mortar is hardening. Painful as the loss in the Leagues Cup was, though, that match is just another brick in a wall designed to stand the test of time.

BlankSpace_1080x100
2025 Season Membership

2025 Season Membership

Secure tickets to see Giroud and LAFC for the 2025 season.

Place a deposit today!

Receive The Latest LAFC Developments

Receive The Latest LAFC Developments

Including special invitations and offers, Academy updates, and opportunities to get involved in the community.