As Leagues Cup pool play wraps up, LAFC returns to work with an unfamiliar opponent in mind.
Warm, overcast conditions shrouded LAFC’s first day of training since the Club learned who its opponent will be for Wednesday night’s Leagues Cup knockout match at BMO Stadium. The Black & Gold spent Monday morning reviewing film of FC Juarez, the upstart Liga MX team that defeated Austin FC Saturday night, 3-1, to set up their Round of 32 date with LAFC in Los Angeles.
Temperatures hovered near 90 degrees when LAFC’s players emerged from their video session and took the field at the Club’s Performance Center on the campus of Cal State LA. Those conditions will be familiar to LAFC’s newest signing, Mario González, who arrived at the Performance Center Monday for routine medical testing, but remains ineligible to participate in team activities until the receipt of his P1 visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC) is complete. LAFC announced its signing of the Spanish striker on July 22 from Sporting Clube de Braga of Portugal, where the summers are similar to LA’s—albeit slightly more humid.
As González’s new teammate practiced corner kicks—Kellyn Acosta sending service from the left and Carlos Vela from the right—González, 27, sat bantering with LAFC assistant coach Ante Razov, the former MLS forward who played a season in Spain’s second division in 2001.
LAFC hopes to have González and newly signed 21-year-old Bulgarian midfielder Filip Krastev available soon.
LAFC’s current focus remains squarely on FC Juarez, a franchise that was promoted to Liga MX in 2019. “Los Bravos” defied prognosticators by finishing second in their group in Leagues Cup pool play. Speaking of Spanish forwards, Juarez got two goals Saturday night from Aitor García, an electric attacker who repeatedly looked dangerous against the Austin defense. García is playing his first season in Liga MX after more than a decade in Spain’s professional ranks.
The LAFC-Juarez matchup will be a homecoming of sorts for Juarez winger Sebastian Saucedo, who was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, just north of LA, and played for the US National Team’s U23 squad. Saucedo scored Los Bravos’ first goal against Austin.
FC Juarez will practice in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Like LAFC’s training sessions, Juarez’s workout will be closed to the public.
As the 2022 MLS Cup Champions, LAFC earned a bye into Leagues Cup’s single-elimination knockout round, skipping the group stage. (Leagues Cup is a new competition featuring all 29 MLS clubs and all 18 Liga MX clubs. Its final is scheduled for August 19).
All Leagues Cup matches air on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app.
For Leagues Cup tickets, visit https://lafc.me/3O9Q6ds