LAFC loses to Alajuelense but advances in CONCACAF Champions League

Los Angeles' Jose Cifuentes (20) defends Alajuelense's Yael Lopez during the second half of a CONCACAF Champions League football game on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LAFC’s José Cifuentes (20) defends Alajuelense’s Yael Lopez during the second half of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match at the BMO Stadium. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Better to be lucky than good. But what if you can be both?

no questions LAFC good. The team won everything that could be won in MLS last season and then opened this season with three straight wins, scoring 10 times.

Now luck seems to smile on the team as well: LAFC reached the quarterfinals of the tournament. CONCACAF Champions League despite losing 2-1 to the Costa Rican club on Wednesday Alajuelense at the BMO stadium.

CCL is played in a two-legged series of home and away matches, the winner is determined by the sum of points. LAFC won the first leg 3-0 last week in Costa Rica, so Wednesday’s loss wasn’t enough to keep him from moving forward as he won 4-2 on aggregate.

And the luck of the LAFC could follow it into the quarterfinals next month, where the team looks to have a favorable draw that matches it against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver has had one winning season in MLS since 2017, while LAFC has been the most successful team in the league during that period.

Additionally, only one of the four teams remaining on the LAFC side of the bracket hails from Mexico, while three of the four finalists on the other side could be from Liga MX, depending on Thursday’s results. Avoiding Mexican teams is key to success in the CCL, the region’s most prestigious club competition, as Liga MX claimed 16 straight titles before the Seattle Sounders took last year’s competition.

LAFC has been here once before, knocking out three Liga MX clubs en route to the 2020 CCL Finals, where they lost to the Mexican Tigres. Due to COVID-19, the last three rounds of this tournament were played after the regular season in a single-elimination format behind closed doors in Orlando.

Alajuelense, who needed to win big to stay alive, took the lead, taking the lead in the eighth minute from a penalty kick by former Galaxy defender Giancarlo González. The score was set when a lengthy video review ended with LAFC’s Giorgio Chiellini being called up for a handball in the box.

The deficit was the first the LAFC faced, playing for the fourth time in 11 days, this season. Defender Aaron Long almost wiped him out in the 15th minute when he headed a corner from the crossbar, and the LAFC were denied again shortly before half-time when Alajuelense goalkeeper Lionel Moreira made a spectacular save from a point-blank shot from Buca’s Stipe.

This allowed Aaron Suárez to double the lead in the seventh minute of the second half when he bounced off goaltender John McCarthy, putting Alajuelense within the LAFC goal of the total. Another impressive save by Moreira six minutes later – this time he deflected a one-handed jumping header from Carlos Vela – kept the score 2-0.

The Costa Ricans, who never gave up, almost pulled out even in the 72nd minute when Johan Venegas took aim at the open far post and just missed.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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