In its opening match of the Generation adidas Cup finals, the LAFC Academy took a page out of the first team's playbook.
Christian Torres stabbed home the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Liga MX's side Cruz Azul just minutes before fulltime. The last-minute winner was reminiscent of the LAFC first team securing three points in the dying moments of matches on two occasions this season at Banc of California Stadium.
Taking part in the inaugural edition of the GA Cup U15 division, LAFC entered tournament play as the top qualifier from MLS. Matched up against a strong Cruz Azul side, the Black & Gold knew they would be tested on the day.
But from the opening whistle, LAFC were on the front foot.
Dictating play via possession and unafraid to build attacks deep in their own half, LAFC consistently found end roads into attacking areas. In the sixth minute, it was nearly 1-0 to LAFC when Dylan Presto thread a pass into the Cruz Azul area for Torres. Running off the back shoulder of his marker, Torres finished the chance with the outside of his right boot but the goal was deemed offside.
Undeterred by the disallowed goal, LAFC continued to probe Cruz Azul and find passes in dangerous areas throughout the first half. Goalkeeper Donovan Palomares had little to do on the day in terms of saves, but his confidence on the ball near his own goal provided LAFC with an outlet and facilitator in building possession. The Mexican youth international calmly found the out ball to the feet of his fullbacks on numerous occasions and quickly cycled play to center backs Tony Leone and Armando Avila, who in turn picked out LAFC midfielders with line-breaking passes going forward.
Despite the superiority in possession and chances, LAFC went into the halftime interval even at 0-0 with Cruz Azul.
In the second half, the Liga MX side pushed back on the Black & Gold with spells of possession. The LAFC backline was up to the challenge though. Fullbacks Beau Yantz and Erik Duenas joined Avila and Leone in repealing the Cruz Azul attackers and forcing the opposition into speculative shots from outside the area.
With 10 minutes remaining in the match, both sides picked up the intensity in search of a winner. LAFC had numerous half-chances until a corner kick minutes from the final whistle found Presto at the back post. Presto corraled the set-piece delivery and was able to get a shot off but the Cruz Azul goalkeeper hurried the LAFC midfielder and managed to block the shot.
The danger was not cleared by Cruz Azul though. A scramble ensued with multiple LAFC players trying to turn the ball on frame. Nathan Ordaz had a shot from the center of the area cleared off the line by a Cruz Azul defender. Yantz followed up but his shot was smothered by the goalkeeper before squirting free to substitute Kevin Jimenez.
Jimenez sent a low, hard cross back against the face of goal. Keeping himself active during the scramble, Torres reacted the quickest to get in front of a defender. The LAFC striker directed a shot off another Cruz Azul player and into the back of the net with just minutes to spare in the match.
The 1-0 victory puts the LAFC Academy in a three-way tie atop the MLS group with only goal differential separating the sides. LAFC will play two matches on Thursday. First up in the morning is Leon, who lost 2-1 to Toronto FC in its first match, followed by an evening match against Monterrey.