LAFC is bounced out of the playoffs
December 3, 2020
Despite being unceremoniously but expectedly bounced, 3-1, in Round One of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs by the Sounders last week at newly renamed Lumen Field (formerly CenturyLink Field), in Seattle, there is still hardware available to Los Angeles Football Club before the year ends. Coincidentally, the Sounders knocked The Black and Gold out of the Playoffs last season, 3-1. LAFC also announced official roster moves for the coming 2021 Major League Soccer season.
With one more trophy up for grabs this year, LAFC will take on Cruz Azul in a single-elimination Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal contest in two weeks on Wednesday, December 16, at 7:30 p.m. PT. Sponsored by Scotiabank, the tournament's Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Final matches will all be played in Florida at Orlando's Exploria Stadium from Tuesday, December 15 through Tuesday, December 22.
In dramatic fashion, LAFC rallied and advanced to the Confederation's flagship club competition by shutting out Club León of Mexico, 3-0, in the second leg of Round of 16 matchup back on February 27 at Banc of California Stadium. That match was marked by team captain and 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela's two goals followed by 2020 Golden Boot winner Diego Rossi's goal to seal the victory.
Head coach Bob Bradley was quoted before the match: "You earn your way into the Champions League. It's not something that just happens." Club León appeared to have had LAFC on the ropes by winning the first leg, 2-0, as the Black and Gold were outshot 19-12 and blanked at Estadio León on February 18. León is currently dominating Liga MX with 40 points in 17 matches played, eight points ahead of Pumas UNAM and Club América.
Cruz Azul is in fourth place in Liga MX, illustrating the strength of LAFC's first two tournament opponents. Cruz Azul advanced by walking over Portmore United FC of Jamaica in the Round of 16 matches. They beat Portmore 2-1 in Jamaica in the first leg before cruising to a 4-0 clean sheet at home in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca in the rematch. Cruz Azul were the Concacaf Champions in 2013/14.
The winner of the LAFC – Cruz Azul match will take on the winner of the Atlanta United FC - Club América contest in the Semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, CD Olympia of Honduras plays the Montreal Impact while Tigres UANL of Mexico goes against New York City FC. The Concacaf's regional club champion qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup 2020, currently scheduled in Qatar from February 1-11, 2021.
This Tuesday, December 1, LAFC began solidifying its roster for next season by exercising contract options on Vela, forward Danny Musovksi and goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega. It's a good sign for both Musovski (age 25) and Sisniega (age 23), who seem destined as integral players in the club's future. Undoubtedly, Vela's future with the club is as secure as his lethal left foot and unquestionable leadership, to name a few of his assets.
There were some surprises of the players LAFC declined to exercise options on. Forward Bradley-Wright Phillips, the team's second leading scorer this season and 2020 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, contract was not picked up. Also included were forward Adrien Perez, defenders Jesus Murillo and Andy Najar, and goalkeeper Phillip Ejimadu. However, all the players currently under contract for the 2020 season are eligible for the Concacaf Champions League tournament in Orlando.
Wright-Phillips, along with defenders Jordan Harvey and Dejan Jakovic, are eligible for free-agency that begins on December 16. Two contracts will also expire at the end of the year: defenders Mohamed El-Munir and Mark Segbers (on loan agreement). El-Munir, Perez, Najar, Murillo and Ejimadu will be eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft Process beginning December 17. The process gives other teams an opportunity to draft experienced MLS players who have not agreed to a new contract with their current club.
LAFC has now secured 20 players under contract for the upcoming 2021 season, including age and hometown: Goalkeepers Pablo Sisniega (23, Mexico City, Mexico) and Kenneth Vermeer (34, Amsterdam, Netherlands); defenders Eddie Segura (23, Pereira, Columbia), Tristan Blackmon (27, Las Vegas, NV), Diego Palacios (21, Guayaquil, Ecuador), Erik Dueñas (18, Los Angeles, CA), Tony Leone (28, Long Beach, CA) and Mohamed Traore (18, Dakar, Senegal).
Rounding out a predominantly young roster: midfielders Eduard Atuesta (23, Velez, Columbia), Mark-Anthony Kaye (26, Toronto, Canada), Latif Blessing (23, Accra, Ghana), Jose Cifuentes (21, Esmeraldas, Ecuador), Francisco Ginella (21, Montevideo, Uruguay) and Bryce Duke (19, Peoria, AZ); forwards Carlos Vela (31, Cancun, Mexico), Diego Rossi (22, Montevideo, Uruguay), Brian Rodriguez (20, Tranqueras, Uruguay), Danny Musovski (25, Henderson, Nevada), Kwadwo Opoku (22, Accra, Ghana) and Christian Torres (16, Fontana, CA).