Carlos Vela just proved he's a one-country wrecking crew.
The Mexican native scored a brace, and teammate Diego Rossi notched an impossible goal that sent the Los Angeles Football Club through the Round of 16 and into the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, after they stunned Liga MX powerhouse León, 3-0, on Thursday night at Banc of California stadium.
The stunning victory for LAFC followed a 2-0 loss to León in the first leg on February 18 in Mexico. No Major League Soccer team in CONCACAF Champions League history has ever overcome a 2-0 deficit in the second leg to advance.
LAFC learned from that loss and adjusted their style in the second leg. After an emotional pregame tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant by the team's supporters, 3252, the 2019 Supporter's Shield winners used their speed and quickness to put León on their heels.
Thanks to short quick passes and an offensive onslaught led by the left foot of Vela, LAFC scored one goal in the first half, and two more in the second to shock León.
Vela's first goal game in the 27th minute thanks to a flush pass from Ecuadorian Diego Palacios at the end line that found Vela at the near post for a right-footed touch into the net. The crucial goal cut the aggregate score to just one, and would allow LAFC to load up and put pressure on León the rest of the night.
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That pressure finally had purpose in the 77th minute as Rossi found Villa on the attack just inside the right corner of the box for a quick slot-shot that leveled the aggregate scoring at 2-2.
”We knew that the game in house could be different, fortunately the result was given and now this is a party,” said Vela after the victory.
Less than two minutes later, Rossi sent shockwaves throughout the western hemisphere, when he went one-on-one with León defender Fernando Navarro from the left corner of the box. After moving to his right, Rossi made two quick moves to his left and then fired a rocket shot from his left foot to the far post for the team's third goal, giving LAFC the overall lead, 3-2.
“If there is a person responsible for the defeat it is me," said a dejected Ignacio Ambriz, manager of León, after the devastating loss. "I didn't like the team at all. It was a game where we did not play as we know, pitifully, bitterly.”
LAFC's triumph was in stark contrast with the elimination of the reigning MLS Champion Seattle Sounders. After securing a 2-2 draw against Olimpia on February 20 at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitiano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the Sounders allowed two goals to the Hondurian club at home, and fell in penalty kicks to eliminate them from the tournament.
The quarterfinals will now feature four teams from MLS: LAFC, Atlanta United, NYCFC, and the Montreal Impact. Three teams from Liga MX: Cruz Azul, Tigres UANL, and Club América, and the sole Hondurian team in Olimpia.