LOS ANGELES — Sometimes, all you need is a break.
Before the start of the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament, LAFC had won just one of its last five games in MLS play.
After earning a bye directly into the round of 32 as the defending MLS Cup champions, LAFC had 17 days of rest to regroup and refocus before a 7-1 thrashing of Liga MX’s FC Juarez, setting up Tuesday’s matchup against Real Salt Lake in the round of 16.
LAFC continued to look like the club that dominated MLS play in the early portion of the season, dominating Real Salt Lake, 4-0, to move on to the quarterfinals.
LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said the preparation time helped the team remind itself of its values.
“Before the this tournament, we had an opportunity to get the players in multiple training sessions. We were working with them and trying to get back to our old habits, behaviors, principles of play,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said after the victory.
Denis Bouanga scored a brace in a four minute span, ballooning LAFC’s lead to 2-0 in what felt like a blink of an eye.
Bouanga now has five goals in just two games of the Leagues Cup, placing him tied for second in the tournament’s leading scorer category, two goals behind Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi and Minnesota United’s Bongokuhle Hlongwane, who each have seven goals in four games.
Not very long afterwards, 19-year old Nathan Ordaz scored his second goal in as many games to extend LAFC’s lead to 3-0 by the 62nd minute. Ordaz’s performances earned himself high praise from Cherundolo.
“Nathan had a good game tonight, he was energetic and scored a goal and that’s always good,” Cherundolo said. “He had bright moments and also moments where you can see he’s really young and still needs work but, everybody can see the moments where there’s a lot of potential.”
Filip Krastev, a 21-year old Bulgarian national who made his LAFC debut as a sub in the 75th minute after arriving on loan just two weeks ago from Belgian club Lommel SK, didn’t take too long to make himself at home, adding the cherry on top to make the score 4-0 in the 85th.
While LAFC was able to get four goals out of three different players, the team did this without its captain Carlos Vela, who injured his leg against Juarez and did not suit up against Real Salt Lake.
“He wasn’t available tonight and hopefully we can give you better news tomorrow or Thursday. We just don’t know, anything further than that would be a lie,” Cherundolo said about his Captain.
Next, LAFC awaits Liga MX’s Monterrey, one of the Mexican league’s historically heavy hitters, which narrowly defeated their rivals Tigres, 1-0 in their round of 16 matchup, which will be hosted at the Rose Bowl.
Bouanga is excited to return to the big stage.
“I love to play in big stadium like this. I really hope that a lot of fans will be there,” Bouanga said through a translator in French.
Cherundolo spoke very highly of his club’s upcoming opponents.
“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical. They’re fast, they can play vertical,” Cherundolo said. “For me, it’s not a typical Liga MX team. It’s a team who, if you place in a European League. It wouldn’t look out of place.”
Friday’s matchup between LAFC and Monterrey is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT, fans are advised to arrive early due to traffic near the stadium.