The stage is set for the final meeting of the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League. Mexico’s Tigres will square off against USA’s LAFC, in what will be the first ever meeting between these two franchises. On the one hand, Tigres are the team of the 2010s decade in Liga MX, having captured five total league titles along with utter league domination during that span. On the other hand, the California-based franchise became an expansion team just two years ago in the MLS and have stolen the MLS spotlight not only because of the addition of star striker Carlos Vela since their creation, but thanks to their stellar league and playoff performances, which have yet to result in a league title.
Neither club have won a CCL title as of yet, but that will change tonight. For Tigres, it is their 4th Final in the last 5 years (0 Final appearances previously), having lost to América (2016), Pachuca (2017), and finally, their Monterrey-based rivals, Rayados (2019). A much decorated resume with nothing to show for it. Their counterpart tonight will be playing their first ever Final in the tournament after only their third year of existence. Whichever of the two win will play their first ever FIFA Club World Cup at the beginning of February 2021.
PATH TO THE FINAL
The Mexican squad arrived at this point thanks to them finding a bit of fortune in the Round of 16 against Alianza, when keeper Nahuel Guzmán scored a last gasp header in the second leg to give his team the 5-4 aggregate lead and eventual series win, allowing them to move on to the QF, where they would meet NYCFC. Their Big Apple rival succumbed to them by a 5-0 aggregate in a clearly dominant fashion. And finally, this past Saturday, Tuca’s squad overcame a very limited Olimpia side by a 3-0 final, with no real test provided there.
LAFC, who by the way debuted in the CCL this year, had a much harder road than their foes. They were first and foremost forced to get past the Liga MX current champs León in the Round of 16, which they barely did by an aggregate score of 3-2. Next came Cruz Azul, of whom they disposed by a 2-1 final, coming from behind and ending La Máquina’s horror-filled December. Finally, they would come from behind once more on Saturday against another Mexico City-based team. This time it was América by a final of 3-1, causing Miguel Herrera’s exit from the club.
While both sides have had very different levels of difficulty on their road to the Final, both have proven the immense talent residing in their squads. With that said however, I have trouble trusting LAFC’s defense. They allowed a whopping 39 goals in only 22 matches during this year’s shortened season, leaving no reason to believe they’re ready to deal with a juggernaut offense such as Ferretti’s, despite their extremely talented Carlos Vela-led offense. On the other hand, Tigres had another defensively stellar season, and their offense has been lights out at certain times, and justifiably so, considering the additions of Leo Fernández and revelation Nico López. Not to mention, team-leader Gignac.
With Tigres having lost their previous three finals, they’re in serious debt with their fanbase, and they know it too. Their minds are set on clinching their first international title in franchise history, as well as securing their first Club World Cup ticket. While it will be a tough match, and I fully expect Bob Bradley’s squad to be a handful for Tigres, I expect the team with the more complete offense and exponentially better defense (Tigres) to come out on top in this one. Tigres should be headed to its first ever Club World Cup.