Six months after epic MLS Cup final, LAFC and Union meet again in CCL semifinal

LAFC goalie John McCarthy and Ilie Sanchez celebrate winning the MLS Cup

It’s been nearly six months since LAFC and the Philadelphia Union met in an epic MLS Cup final decided on penalty kicks. And a lot has happened since.

LAFC, the winner that day, remains unbeaten eight games into the new MLS season, while the Union have lost more games than they have won. But the teams will be even when they meet again Wednesday night in Chester, Pa., in the first game of a two-leg CONCACAF Champions League semifinal.

The second leg will take place Tuesday night at BMO Stadium, with the winner decided by the aggregate score over the two matches.

Both teams have posted three shutouts in four games to win their round-of-16 and quarterfinal matchups, LAFC eliminating Alajuelense of Costa Rica and MLS rival Vancouver. Philadelphia beat Alianza of El Salvador and Mexico’s Atlas.

Including the MLS Cup final, LAFC and the Union have met five times since 2018, with the last four games ending in a draw.

“They’re a fantastic club and team who are, I think, one of the best teams in the league as far as playing in a consistent manner and having a clear style and implementing that,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said of the Union. “So we certainly have our work cut out for us.”

Although the trip is LAFC’s second-longest of the season — about a half-hour shorter than its flight to Costa Rica to open CCL play last month — the team didn’t leave Los Angeles until Tuesday afternoon, crossing four time zones to arrive in Philadelphia less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s kickoff. That’s been LAFC’s standard travel procedure since Cherundolo took over as coach last season.

“Preparing out of your own facility and sleeping in your own bed is always better than away from home,” he said.

This is the second time in four seasons that LAFC has made it to the semifinals of the region’s most prestigious club competition. In 2020, it reached the final, in which it lost to Tigres of Mexico’s Liga MX. The Union played in the CCL semifinals a year later, losing to Mexico’s Club América.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.