LAFC defender Diego Palacios (12) (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

The LAFC scored in the first and final thirds to secure a 3-0 victory against Philadelphia Union in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals. The Black and Gold now advance to the Champions League Finals to play a team from League MX. Despite the loss, Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin sent the LAFC his well wishes for the Finals.

“I think rivalries are healthy, so we have a rivalry between us and [LAFC], but now there’s also a bigger rivalry which is MLS vs League MX,” Curtin said. “We know LAFC will represent our league very well.”

Midfielder Timothy Tillman (11) has made two goals in the 2023 regular season (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo noted how the squad was able to put the game on their terms.

“They have shown that they can turn it around quickly, they don’t dwell on successes too much nor do we dwell on games that didn’t go our way,” Cherundolo said. “The game was better managed; we had more control of the game and the ups and downs of the game.”

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The team celebrated Tillman’s goal season (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

In the 13th minute, LAFC midfielder Timothy Tillman made a left-footed shot to the left side of the goal. From six yards out, Tillman secured the first goal of the night.

“I’m just happy to be here, happy to help the team like that,” Tillman said. “There will always be times where it’s better or worse, but at the moment, it’s just a good flow.”

LAFC designated player Carlos Vela (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

It was a physical bout with Philadelphia getting three yellow cards, LAFC getting two. Philadelphia Union defender Olivier Mbaizo earned a red card.

The Black and Gold’s two other scores came late in the final third of the game. In the 82nd minute, forward Mahala Opoku notched the score up to two with an assist from forward Carlos Vela. LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead commended reserve players like Opoku for maintaining a positive mindset and using their time on the pitch to help the team.

Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake tries to keep LAFC from scoring (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

“A guy like [Opoku] comes on and this guy just runs all day long looking to be aggressive, looking to score a goal,” Hollingshead said. “He comes on with the mindset of ‘I’m subbing in, I got 20 minutes left in the game. Their defense is tired, I’m gonna run at him all day long, I’m gonna get me a goal.’”

Right before the end of the match, forward Dénis Bouanga sent a right-footed shot from the center of the box to the net, midfielder José Cifuentes assists.

“I want to win every game, I’m not here to lose, I want to win,” Bouanga said. “I’m sure that the team is exactly the same, has the same goal.”

Balancing competing for the regular season with competing for the Champions League can be challenging for players, especially when it comes to travelling. Hollingshead explained that the LAFC is doing their best to manage it.

LAFC forward Dénis Bouanga (99) battles against Philadelphia defender Olivier Mbaizo (15) (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

“It’s hard to deal with flying to Nashville, five-hour flight, fly back, get no sleep. Turn around a day later, fly out to Philadelphia,” Hollingshead said. “Champions League is a thing that every team is dealing with at this level.”

The LAFC will travel to battle San Jose on May 6 at 4:30pm