Report and Reaction: LAFC kill off any lingering Whitecaps Champions League hopes with another strong showing

Report and Reaction: LAFC kill off any lingering Whitecaps Champions League hopes with another strong showing

It was always going to be a mountain to climb if Vancouver Whitecaps were to get themselves back into their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final at LAFC on Tuesday night. Trailing by three from the first leg, the Grim Reaper was hanging around waiting for his hourglass to run out and kill off their dreams once and for all. He didn’t need to in the end, that was done by Carlos Vela, who served up his very own Day of the Dead with a first half brace to take a scythe to Whitecaps hearts.

José Cifuentes hit another banger in the tie midway through the second half to make the final score 3-0 on the night and 6-0 on aggregate. A very disappointing way for the ‘Caps to crash out of the competition and one that just shows the gulf that exists between the upper echelons of Major League Soccer and the chasing pack.

Vanni Sartini made eight changes to the starting line-up from the team that overcame Portland on Saturday night. We can debate whether those were to add fresh legs or with a view to the tie being pretty much over and giving some guys minutes.

If the Whitecaps were to have any chance of getting back into the tie, they had to get off to a quick start, reduce the deficit by half time, and keep LAFC from adding to their lead. Despite their best intentions, that’s certainly not how things played out.

Deiber Caicedo brought a save out of John McCarthy in the 4th minute, as the ‘Caps started on the front foot, but they soon fell behind four minutes later.

The in-form Denis Bouanga burst into the box and was sent crashing to the deck by Ryan Raposo and up stepped Vela to finish high into the top corner and give LAFC a lead on the night and increase their lead in the tie.

It was almost two for the MLS champs in the 12th minute when Bouanga played in Diego Palacios, but his fierce strike was kept out by Thomas Hasal in the Whitecaps goal.

Russell Teibert linked up well with Ali Ahmed before firing off a long range rocket in the 17th minute that a full stretch McCarthy turned around the post, but that was to be as good as it got for the Whitecaps in the first half.

LA doubled their lead on the night in the 31st minute when Vela was played in by a beautiful ball over the top from Ilie Sánchez. It was timed to perfection as he started his run, got goalside of the Whitecaps defence, and finished with aplomb pas Hasal.

And it nearly went from bad to worse for the Whitecaps mere minutes later when Bouanga headed the ball down superbly to make room for a shot, which Hasal saved again.

That was the score at the half and with Vancouver’s faint hopes now well and truly extinguished, Sartini made four changes for the second half, with Steve Cherundolo making two for LAFC.

The second half was pretty much a non event for the most part but a moment of magic from Cifuentes in the 65th minute certainly lit it up when he got a pass from Bouanga 20 yards out and blasted one in off the left post, beating Hasal all ends up.

The final whistle put the Whitecaps out of their misery and will certainly have shown Sartini and Axel Schuster the differences in quality between a top side like LAFC and what their team wants to be. Can they learn much from it? I don’t know really, but it was a disappointing end to a competition everyone in Vancouver had high hopes for.

They’ll just have to win the Canadian Championship again this year to have another crack at the Champions League in 2024.

FINAL SCORE: Los Angeles FC 3 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps (LAFC win 6-0 on aggregate)

ATT: 18,688

8’ – LAFC – Carlos Vela (penalty kick)
31’ – LAFC – Carlos Vela (Ilie Sánchez)
65’ – LAFC – José Cifuentes (Dénis Bouanga)

Possession: LAFC 54.7% – VAN 45.3%
Shots: LAFC 11 – VAN 14
Shots on Goal: LAFC 5 – VAN 6
Saves: LAFC 6 – VAN 2
Fouls: LAFC 12 – VAN 11
Offsides: LAFC 1 – VAN 2
Corners: LAFC 1 – VAN 3

LOS ANGELES: John McCarthy; Ryan Hollingshead, Jesús Murillo, Aaron Long, Diego Palacios (Sergi Palencia 66′); Ilie Sánchez (José Cifuentes 46′), Kellyn Acosta (Erik Dueñas 66’), Timothy Tillman; Carlos Vela, Dénis Bouanga (Daniel Crisostomo 73’), Kwadwo Opoku (Stipe Biuk 46′) [Substitutes not used: Abraham Romero, Denil Maldonado, Giorgio Chiellini, Christian Torres, Nathan Ordaz]

VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Ryan Raposo, Javain Brown, Ranko Veselinović (Tristan Blackmon 46′), Ali Ahmed (Mathías Laborda 60’); Ryan Gauld (J.C. Ngando 46′), Sebastian Berhalter, Russell Teibert; Cristian Dájome (Julian Gressel 46′), Déiber Caicedo (Pedro Vite 46′); Brian White [Substitutes not used: Yohei Takaoka, Isaac Boehmer, Luís Martins, Simon Becher, Matteo Campagna]





“They are complete. Today they have on the bench [José] Cifuentes and [Giorgio] Chiellini. So that’s the thing and also, again, I would say, credit to the work of Steve [Cherundolo] because it’s not just a collection of stars. This is a team. Of course from now on, I hope that it’s either them or Philadelphia to win the cup. Because we are all part of MLS and we want MLS to be the best league in North America and I think we are, and since they are the best team in this league. I always say that in the Western Conference, I think they’re the only team that are better than us. That doesn’t mean that we are the second team. We are in contention with other teams. I hope we’ll come back again here for the regular season but I hope that we get to come back here for the playoffs because it means that we’re going further and maybe if we have to win one game it’s better to win a playoff game against them.”

On changes to the starting XI:

“The reason why is because we had a lot of games and we had to manage the players. We saw what happened with Andrés [Cubas] last game. So we wanted to approach the first half in a way that was very aggressive with two very offensive fullbacks like [Ryan] Raposo and [Ali] Ahmed and then having the front three, with [Déiber] Caicedo, [Cristian] Dájome and [Brian] White, good players there. Then making some changes accordingly at the end of the first half. Unfortunately, we were down at the end of the first half so the changes that we made were also in relation to let’s say not to do all the players that you already use all the minutes like for example [Ryan] Gauld, for example, Dájome, Ranko [Veselinović], Déiber was also capped at 45 minutes. So that’s the reason why.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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