"We have to go for it."
Those were the words from LAFC defender Jordan Harvey to the media after training at the end of this week. It's a sentiment that's also front of mind for the Black & Gold supporters ahead of Thursday's Concacaf Champions League home leg with Club León.
In need of a reversal of a two-goal deficit from the away leg in Mexico, the LAFC squad is well aware of the task at hand.
"At home, we're confident. I think it's just about cleaning up some of the mistakes. It's a difficult place to play [León]," Harvey added. "You watch the game and we're disappointed in not just the scoreline but some of the characteristics that seeped in. We're trying to iron those out.
"But really, just go for it. It's 2-0, we have to score some goals. They know that. So, it will be an exciting game."
In the away leg, LAFC looked primed to carry just a one-goal deficit back to Banc of California Stadium with two minutes left to play in regular time. But a quick step forward by León captain Luis Montes to a square pass along the LAFC backline resulted in the match's second goal. It was a self-inflicted error that made LAFC's task that much greater in the home leg but Bob Bradley and his team knew there would be challenges in both legs regardless of the opening result.
"For sure. it would have helped to keep the score at 1-0," Bradley said after training on Friday. "We understood going in - two legs, 180 minutes - but we made a mistake. Sometimes this happens in football. Good teams learn from mistakes. Good teams respond after they make mistakes. And we have our chance in the second leg."
Lost in much of the analysis of the mistakes in away match were LAFC's better qualities on the night. Traveling to play a match at altitude, in Mexico, and without a single minute of competitive play under their belts, Bradley's side displayed a courage and identity unseen by many Liga MX sides, let alone MLS sides, in taking on a top Mexican side like León.
The Black & Gold played a high line, tried to stay compact to keep the game in the opponent's half, and refused to compromise it's attacking ideas. Home or away, despite the competition, LAFC believes it has a foundation in place to meet the best sides and play its football. Through improved execution and with the advantage of having gotten 90-plus competitive minutes together as a team, Bradley is confident his side is still very much in the running to go through to the CCL quarterfinals.
"It's all about the mentality and the belief," Bradley said. "The opportunity for a team at home to get the first goal and put the other team under pressure, and really be committed to the possibility of making it a special night, you have to embrace those moments.
"The best teams, the best players are up for it. And I think we will be."
News & Notes
- Eduard Atuesta didn't take part in the first leg against León due to discomfort he'd felt in warm-ups through the week before the match. Bob Bradley pointed out that Atuesta played in a lot of matches in a short period of time in CONMEBOL's Olympic qualifying tournament with Colombia, so it made sense to keep him out of the first leg. Atuesta is in training this week and with the nine-day lead up to the return leg, Bradley said the midfielder is making progress and the team is "hopeful" he'll take part on Thursday.
- Jordan Harvey also missed the first leg of LAFC's Round of 16 tie with León. The defender remained in Los Angeles to be with his wife, as she gave birth to their second child. The Harveys welcomed daughter Houston Mae to the family on Feb. 18. Both mom and daughter are happy and healthy.
- León defeated Necaxa 2-0 in Liga MX play. Jean Meneses scored both goals for La Fiera after scoring the game-winner against LAFC. León captain Luis Montes was rested for the match, as he recovers from a muscular injury and hopes to be able to play against LAFC in the return leg.