One day before his team attempts to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League final, LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo had one question.
Will the real LAFC please stand up?
For 90-plus minutes of the first leg in Mexico, León outplayed LAFC, scoring two first half goals and nearly added a third in stoppage time. The team wearing Black & Gold Wednesday night barely resembled the side that outscored opponents 14-3 in the runup to the tournament’s final.
“I think the most surprising thing about Wednesday night for our players was their own performances,” Cherundolo said in his pre-match press conference. “Not so much León, we knew what was coming our way. There’s plenty of video, there’s plenty of documentation how they play, and how intense the game would be.
“None of that should surprise the guys. I think more or less, our own performances surprised us. We just had a bad game at the wrong time. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Carlos Vela put it less politely.
“We played, sorry about the word but… a s* game.”
In many ways, things couldn’t have gone worse for LAFC in León. And yet, thanks to Dénis Bouanga’s goal in the 96th minute, their path to continental victory remains open. The deficit LAFC must overturn on Sunday is much less daunting than originally thought.
Regardless, as the captain, Vela is setting the tone ahead of the second leg.
“The only positive thing is we come here just one goal down. We have to take that as a chance to play better football, to play in LA with our fans, and beat León,” Vela said. “It’s the only way we get the trophy.
“We are really excited. We are focusing to start strong, come into the game with a good attitude, and score goals. It’s the only way to win the game and win this trophy.”
- The 2-1 deficit from leg one means LAFC must win in leg two to have any chance at lifting the CCL trophy. If LAFC wins by two goals or more, they will take the final outright after the 90 minutes. If the aggregate scores are tied after 90 minutes, the two teams will play a 30-minute extratime period and go to a penalty shootout if necessary. The away-goals rule is not in effect for the final.
- During his press availability, Cherundolo said defender Jesús Murillo is available for the match. Murillo missed the first leg due to yellow card accumulation but has also been dealing with an injury. Murillo's last action with LAFC was the first half of the second leg of the CCL semifinal against Philadelphia on May 2.
- Kellyn Acosta was also declared available after being an unused substitute in the first leg. Acosta exited a regular season match on May 13 against RSL after 13 minutes and has not played since.
- The first 15 minutes of Saturday’s training was open to the media. Seen taking part with his teammates was defender Giorgio Chiellini. Chiellini has two appearances in CCL play, in both the home and away legs versus LD Alajuelense.
- Dénis Bouanga’s goal in the 96th minute of the first leg was his 7th of the tournament. Bouanga leads all scorers in CCL play.