2. Counter-attacking intelligence
It has long been said that Mexican teams are more tactically intelligent than their MLS counterparts. The reason for that is because it has largely been true. Liga MX teams have an innate understanding and instinctual understanding their North American opponents have not yet mastered.
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This disparity in tactical awareness was again on show here, especially when it came to building and preventing counter-attacks. With Brian Rodriguez, Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi forming a fluid, vibrant front three that rotated positions and offered ferocious speed, Los Angeles FC’s offensive plan should have been clear: feed their playmakers as frequently as possible, especially when they have space to drive into, which is most likely to come on the break.
Club Leon were aware of this threat, with two sitting midfielders patrolling the middle of the park and blocking passing lanes superbly, while LAFC were ponderous in their build-up play, not feeding more direct passes into their attacking threats.
Conversely, LAFC’s pressing game, which previously suffocated MLS last season, lacked intensity and energy. Leon could play around, through and over it with relative ease and consistently engineered attacking moments with their offensive players in wide spaces and exposed defenders in front of them. This is how Tristan Blackmon was abused for Jean Meneses’ first-half strike. Leon knew how to execute a counter-attack and prevent one from hurting them; LAFC, on the other hand, could master neither process, and it cost them dear.