LAFC’s Jose Cifuentes is consoled by a coach after losing to Tigres. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
So close, yet so far.
The Los Angeles Football Club pulled off a rarity this year, disposing of three consecutive Mexican clubs to reach the Concacaf Champions League final in Orlando, Fla. Dec. 22.
The Major League Soccer side had disposed of Leon, Cruz Azul and Club America in its quest for continental glory, but the fourth time and attempt was not its charm. LAFC’s final three games were played in a bubble at Exploria Stadium in a tournament that was delayed from the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LAFC lost a one-goal lead in the second half and dropped a frustrating and disappointing 2-1 decision to Tigres UANL at last Tuesday night.
The team was trying to become the first MLS squad to win the competition and attemping to join D.C. United (1998) and the LA Galaxy (2001) as American teams who have won a Concacaf club tournament.
Tournament leading goal-scorer and MVP Andre-Pierre Gignac snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 84th minute for the Mexican team.
Tigres also booked a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar in February.
For MLS teams that will participate in the 2021 CCL, it will be another difficult task in its annual attempt to make history.
“We’re disappointed,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “It was a choppy game. The football was not always perfect, but I thought our way of going after them and pushing the game for 70 minutes was quite good.”
MLS MVP Diego Rossi, who led the league with 16 goals, tallied in the 61st minute to lift LAFC into a 1-0 edge. Mark-Anthony’s pass from the left side found Rossi on the opposite side of the box and the LA forward looped it over the goalkeeper.
“We stepped up and we put pressure on them,” Bradley said. “We closed them down and put pressure on them and they had a difficult time getting forward. We felt we could push the game and try to step up and press and find moments of being able to control the game.”
Tigres equalized in the 71st minute as Hugo Ayala headed in a corner kick.
Silent for most of the game, Gignac came to life when it was needed the most as he turned a Luis Rodríguez pass into a goal on his shot from the middle of the penalty arc in the 84th minute. It was Gignac’s sixth goal of the competition.
Mexican international striker Carlos Vela, the hero of LAFC’s semifinal win over Club America, was never a factor in the final.
“Carlos took some pretty good fouls tonight,” Bradley said. “He took a lot of hard fouls tonight. I’m not sure why, at a certain point when you have a player like that, that is constantly getting fouled, it would seem that would lead to a yellow card.”
Tomorrow: National story No. 3