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LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo confident that they can “bounce back” in CCL final second leg

The MLS side nearly ended the CCL final first leg with a 3-0 loss, but escaped with a one-goal defeat against Club Léon.

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LAFC escaped with a narrow defeat from the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League final against Club Léon, despite being comprehensively outplayed by the Liga MX team.

Léon scored twice in the first half to take a comfortable lead into the break and were on top for much of the game. The Mexican side had the ball in the net for a third time in the 92nd minute but Osvaldo Rodríguez’s powerful header was ruled out for a foul on Sergi Palencia. Then, in the final moments, Palencia’s searching cross found LAFC talisman Denis Bouanga in the box to halve the deficit.

The game finished 2-1, meaning that LAFC have a one-goal deficit to overturn in Sunday’s second leg at the BMO Stadium. But considering how the first leg in Léon panned out, LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo believes that the late goal has kept his side in the tie.

“It was a lifeline,” Cherundolo admitted. “This team showed a lot of guts to make a couple plays at the end of the game.”

“What we were missing all night long was just quality in the final third and the final pass. Our passing was some of the worst I’ve seen all season,” he added.

“Credit to Léon, they played excellent in the first half. We didn’t have answers for that. And so just backing up and receding and not defending forward has never been a successful way to defend. It’s never been the way we do things at LAFC and it’s certainly not something we plan on doing in the future, especially Sunday.”

LAFC remain in the hunt despite disappointing performance

In 2020 LAFC finished as runners up in the CONCACAF Champions League, losing to Tigres in the final. That year’s tournament was truncated due to the pandemic meaning that the final was a single fixture. This time around, LAFC have the chance to make up for their poor performance in the second leg.

LAFC are the reigning MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions and have been one of the league’s most impressive teams again this season. However their normal quality on the ball deserted them in the febrile atmosphere of Wednesday first leg.

“We are experienced enough, smart enough to bounce back”

Steve Cherundolo, LAFC head coach

“I’m very disappointed in our performance tonight,” Cherundolo said after the game. “That goal does give us a chance, but that goal alone does not help us win a final. The performances of every individual out there, the performance of the group as a group, needs to be much, much improved. I think the scoreline is extremely lucky for us.”

“But we are experienced enough, smart enough to bounce back,” the LAFC boss added. “We’re also fit enough to put in a much better performance on Sunday. And this team knows exactly what’s at stake. And so I am 100% positive LAFC’s performance on Sunday will be much improved, and hopefully good enough to raise a trophy.”

“Like I said, we expect to bounce back pretty quickly and improve. And we will figure out and show the players what went well tonight, what didn’t go well tonight, and what we need to improve on in order to beat Léon at home.”