Two MLS teams got their first taste of competitive action in 2020 as Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC opened their Concacaf Champions League campaigns with lackluster performances on Tuesday night.
Atlanta United conceded early, but hit back quickly, in a 1-1 draw against Motagua down in Honduras while LAFC struggled at the back and couldn’t find a finish in a 2-0 defeat on the road against Club Leon.
In the earlier match, Cruz Azul bagged a pair of goals in stoppage time to avoid a first-leg upset at Portmore United in Jamaica.
Here’s the full rundown of Tuesday’s CCL action:
Club Leon 2, LAFC 0
(Meneses 21′, Mena 89′)
LAFC showed some preseason rust throughout the first half of the game. Jean Meneses scored the opener thanks to a Triston Blackmon slip in the midfield and some awkward defending. They had a few chances at a goal of their own, but a lack of coordination and poor shooting kept them off the scoreboard.
LAFC cleaned up its act a bit in the second half, but it still wasn’t enough to find a goal, despite a few chances. The visitors pressed forward with plenty of energy, but often found themselves caught out on the counterattack. Leon was unlucky not to find a second before Angel Mena took advantage of another LAFC mistake in the 89th minute. Mohamed El-Munir lost possession of the ball deep in half, giving Leon a three-on-one advantage, allowing Mena to easily slot home the second goal.
LAFC will now need a much improved performance in the return leg at Banc of California Stadium next week.
Motagua 1, Atlanta United 1
(Moreira 34′)-(Martinez 35′)
Atlanta United also looked very much out of shape in its competitive opener. They struggled to get much going offensively and only managed to score with a quick response after conceding in the 34th minute.
Roberto Aldana gave Motagua a 1-0 lead, but Josef Martinez scored just a minute later by outrunning the host’s back line with some help from Pity Martinez. The move started with a long ball that found Pity, who then worked a nice one-touch passing sequence that ended in Josef banking a shot in off the far post as Motagua’s defenders sprinted back helplessly.
That was really Atlanta’s only chance of the game, however, as the visitors experienced few runs of sustained possession in the second half. The two sides ended up even on shots with 11 each.
Atlanta will have the advantage of an away goal heading home to Georgia for the second leg next week. A win against a team from Honduras on home soil, even if that game won’t be at Mercedes Benz Stadium, shouldn’t be too much to ask for.
Portmore United 1, Cruz Azul 2
(Smith 74′)-(Passerini 90+5′, Rodriguez 90+9′)
This game looked like a scoreless draw for 75 minutes until CCL newcomers Portmore United went ahead on a beauty of a goal from forward Rondee Smith.
Smith found himself stuck between a pair of Cruz Azul defenders in the corner of the penalty area when he lofted a shot over goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado.
Before that, Portmore had looked content with leaving Kingston with a draw before what is sure to be a beatdown back in Mexico City. They remained defensive as Cruz Azul dominated 70% of possession with very little to show for it. Portmore had defended well and continued to do so, along with some strategic time wasting, but they still couldn’t hold in for the unlikely win, or even a draw.
Lucas Passerini equalized for Cruz Azul off a fortunate deflection in the fifth minute of stoppage time to salvage a draw from a fairly drab performance. They salvaged the win when Jonathan Rodriguez got free in the penalty area and roofed a shot with the final kick of the match.