LOS ANGELES — LAFC advances to its second CONCACAF Champions League Final in four seasons and awaits the winner between Liga MX’s Tigres UANL and Club Leon.
During Media Availability this week, LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said he and his team “tactically reviewed” what went wrong and what went right during the first leg of the CONCACAF Champion’s League Semifinal against Philadelphia Union.
The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw, the fifth draw in the six matches between the two clubs.
Tuesday, it looked like Cherundolo wasn’t bluffing.
In what is becoming one of MLS’s most entertaining rivalries, LAFC won handedly against Philadelphia Union, 3-0 Tuesday night at BMO stadium, winning 4-1 on aggregate.
“We wanted to be the aggressor tonight and then to play towards goal and finish great chances. We did exactly that,” Cherundolo said after the victory.
Late in the second half after entering as a sub, Mahalo Opoku would receive the ball from team captain Carlos Vela and a close-range goal off his left put the game out of reach for Philadelphia, 2-0 and 3-1 on aggregate.
Cherundolo said the decision to bench Opoku to start the game was partly due to the amount of minutes his key players have been getting recently, among other factors.
“We’re asking a lot of these guys and the way our rosters are all built are pretty thin compared to European organizations and teams who go through multiple competitions. It’s very difficult, and we would love to see that change in the future,” Cherendolo added.
Denis Bouanga, who has been on a scoring outburst as of late, would put the final nail in the coffin in the 90th minute, netting his sixth CONCACAF Champion’s League goal to make the score 3-0 and put LAFC ahead 4-1 on aggregate.
The victory gives LAFC a birth in the CONCACAF Final, the club’s second in four years, with the first coming in 2020.
Timothy Tillman got LAFC on the board early, netting a goal off to make the score 1-0 and put LAFC ahead 2-1 on aggregate. Tillman was able to clean up a missed header by Ilie Sanchez in the 13th minute after a Carlos Vela corner kick.
Philadelphia had a chance to respond less than 10 minutes later, but Daniel Gazdag’s shot was deflected and saved by John McCarthy at the near post to keep the clean sheet McCarthy was showered with ‘MVP’ chants by the 3252 not very far behind him.
“I think from the very beginning you could tell we were locked in,” McCarthy said. “They’re a very good team and I think we showed tonight how much better we are.”
The visitors would see few scoring opportunities and not convert any of them in the half as LAFC took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Already down a goal in the second half, Philadelphia’s Oliver Mbazio was sent off in the 59th after picking up his second yellow card, resulting in the Union having to play the final 30 minutes of the game with 10 men.
Despite an increased sense of urgency, given that LAFC had netted an away goal during the first leg meaning Philadelphia needed at least two goals to move on, the Union were not able to apply much pressure on LA’s backline and did not create many scoring opportunities before LAFC added two late.
Next, LAFC awaits the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal between Liga MX’s Tigres UANL and Club Leon, Tigres currently hold a 2-1 lead on aggregate.