History will be made on Tuesday in Guanajuato.
In the two seasons since its first competitive match, LAFC has made its mark in MLS. There have been records that have fallen - most points by an expansion team in its inaugural season, best goal differential in a season, quickest to clinch a playoff spot, join-top for goals scored in a season, and an MLS record-breaking 72 points in one season.
The Black & Gold’s statistical dominance hasn't been solely relegated to the record books. It's been tangible as well. LAFC and its Supporters celebrated the first trophy in Club history with the lifting of the Supporters’ Shield at the end of last season.
Now, Season 3 begins with the pursuit of a new trophy. One MLS covets above all. On Tuesday, LAFC faces Club León in the first Concacaf Champions League match in Club history.
Here is the preview of LAFC vs. Léon in the first leg of the Round of 16:
Concacaf Champions League | LAFC at Club León | Feb. 18 at 7pm PT
Where To Watch
TV: FS2, TUDN
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León entered the sixth week of play in Liga MX's Clausura atop the table. By the end of the round, they found themselves in third place. Don't let that fool you though. León started many of its reserves in a 3-1 loss to Atlético San Luis. Despite the loss, La Fiera is still second in goals scored in this season's Clausura with 14 and just two points behind leaders Pumas.
What The Team Is Saying
Bob Bradley on traveling to begin CCL play in León: "León is a great stadium and a great football city. And they love their team. Anytime you got to Mexico to play a top team, you've got your hands full. Whenever you play two legs, you have to have a mindset of 180 minutes. We've to be really smart in the first leg. We have to make sure that tactically, we're all on the same page because it's a very good team and you need to really be clear, that as you get into the second half of the first leg, how important every goal is."
Bradley Wright-Phillips on the mindset MLS teams need in CCL: "Block out the noise. Over here, the media, it’s a lot about do you have enough rest? Is it unfair that it’s preseason for you and they are already in their season? LAFC is a great team. We – I can say 'we' now – we are a good team. You go there with no excuses and win the game because you can. Or try and win the game because you can. And if you don’t, you’ve got a second leg. But just go there with no doubts. It’s a good team but so are we. There’s no excuses."
What To Watch For
Away Goals Matter: The way the CCL is set up, rounds before the final take away goals into account. Playing away from home in the first leg is a tough test for LAFC to start its competitive season but they'll arrive in León knowing that every goal they score will add a bit of pressure on their opponents. It's vital LAFC find at least one goal away from home, so don't expect the Black & Gold to face León with a negative approach. There will be chances in this match, making execution the prevailing factor in the opening match.
León's Attacking Quintet: León is second in Liga MX in goals scored this season. Ángel Mena sits atop the Liga MX scoring charts with five goals in six matches. The winger has been dangerous this season but he's not a one-man show. León boasts a quintet of attackers that can hurt you. Captain Luis Montes has two goals from midfield, while striker Leonardo Ramos has three goals of his own. Along with Ismael Sosa and Jean Meneses, León can create and score against opponents from a variety of sources.
Who's In Midfield: While LAFC had a positive preseason - winning three and drawing one - they played throughout much of it without starters from last season and its new additions in midfield. The good news is that Mark-Anthony Kaye has returned to fitness after being out much of the preseason. The Canadian midfielder didn't take part in any of LAFC's preseason matches but has been training regularly leading up to León. Eduard Atuesta, Francisco Ginella, and José Cifuentes have all returned from CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying. Ginella and Cifuentes both saw minutes in LAFC's final preseason match, and while Atuesta was held out, he's also been back in full training in the week leading up to the match. Latif Blessing, the one mainstay of LAFC's midfield last season and during the 2020 preseason, has looked fit and impressed in the friendly matches. He's likely going to take one of the three midfield spots, while Atuesta, Ginella, Cifuentes, Kaye, and new arrival Bryce Duke, after impressing this preseason, are competing for the final two starting places in the midfield.