LAFC: CCL postponement might be positive

MLS, LAFC, Carlos Vela (Photo by Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
MLS, LAFC, Carlos Vela (Photo by Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

LAFC were meant to play Cruz Azul last week in the first leg of the CCL quarter-finals. The postponements might be positive for the Black and Gold.

The sporting world is on hold. As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world and social gatherings are increasingly cancelled, postponed, or moved behind closed doors, major sporting events, which obviously attract vast crowds are a hotbed for a spreading virus, have been some of the worst affected.

It started slowly, with the odd match here and there postponed due to one or two cases. But as last week progressed and the extent of the virus became clear, almost all global sport was either cancelled or postponed.

One competition was the CONCACAF Champions League. In a statement last Thursday, CONCACAF announced that the Olympics qualifiers, Gold Cup qualifiers and the CCL would all be postponed for 30 days, akin to the decision that Major League Soccer made regarding its domestic competition.

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That week, the first leg of the CCL quarter-finals were scheduled to be played. In fact, on Tuesday night, the Montreal Impact had already played and lost their first leg, while Atlanta United and New York City FC both fell to their respective opponents on Wednesday.

But Los Angeles FC were set to play their first leg against Cruz Azul on Thursday night. The game was swiftly postponed and will now likely be one of the first fixtures to be rescheduled after the hiatus, however long that may be.

But for LAFC, who have a real chance of becoming the first MLS team to win the CCL after they proved they can hang with the very best that Liga MX has to offer after toppling Club Leon in the Round of 16, coming from 2-0 down with a remarkably dominant second-leg performance to do so, this delay might actually pay dividends. While the postponement of the tournament is obviously worrying and the global health is the primary concern with every decision made, for LAFC, this break could come in handy.

MLS teams have struggled in CCL play because it comes early in their season. They are not fully match-fit. They come up against CONCACAF-based opposition who are in the midst of their respective seasons and are entirely match-sharp. This lack of sharpness often shows. In the first legs of the Round of 16, MLS teams had an aggregate score of 9-3 before the 62nd minute. After the 62nd minute, the aggregate score was 1-7.

After games took place last weekend, Liga MX have now decided to suspend matches until after the international break in April also. While it remains to be seen just what impact the COVID-19-enforced hiatus will have on the fitness of the players and their match-sharpness upon the return of the football calendar, whenever that may be, it is reasonable to assume that the loss of fitness and readiness will be equal for MLS and Liga MX teams. For LAFC, then, who were still only two games in their domestic schedule, this break might even the playing field a little.

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They have a genuine chance of easing past Cruz Azul and eventually winning the CCL. The coronavirus is the most important aspect here, of course. But while we all wait for the return of worldwide football, the enforced break will benefit some and not others. LAFC might just slot into the former camp.