Tigres overcome lethargy, LAFC to claim second Campeones Cup

Jesús Angulo pumps his fist after leaping into Nahuel Guzmán's arms. Angulo knocked home the winning penalty kick and Guzmán stopped two LAFC spot kicks to help Tigres win the Campeones Cup. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Jesús Angulo pumps his fist after leaping into Nahuel Guzmán's arms. Angulo knocked home the winning penalty kick and Guzmán stopped two LAFC spot kicks to help Tigres win the Campeones Cup. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
Tigres Campeones Cup
Tigres captain Guido Pizarro holds aloft the Campeones Cup trophy after the Liga MX club defeated LAFC in a penalty shootout. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Tigres became the first two-time winner of the Campeones Cup with a  4-2 shootout win over LAFC after a scoreless 90 minutes at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles.

Nahuel Guzmán stopped two penalty kicks and when fourth Tigres shooter Jesús Angulo converted his spot kick, the reigning Liga MX champions had put an end to a three-game MLS win streak in this six-year-old Cup match.

Tigres enjoyed much the better of possession throughout the match, but LAFC always the more likely to score as the Liga MX side seemed lethargic. Poor decision-making plagued the visitors

LAFC sat back in a defensive posture but pressed aggressively when Tigres crossed midfield. The MLS champs were quick to the ball and a lack of movement on the part of “los felinos” allowed The Black and Gold to steal a number of passes.

Once in possession, LAFC attacked quickly but were unable to finish plays. Still, the MLS men continued to outhustle Tigres, winning the majority of 50-50 balls and preventing “los norteños” from getting clear looks at goal.

Despite 64% possession, the Liga MX guys managed just 3 shots on goal, the same number as LAFC. Unfortunately for the LA boys, a fourth shot on goal didn’t count.

In minute 78, Giorgio Chiellini took a free kick after a foul but first moved the ball to his favored left foot. In doing so, the former Italy international failed to wait until the sphere stopped moving, making his restart illegal.

And the restart was a beauty (in part because Tigres players were busy pointing out the violation while LAFC played on). The result was a nifty Denis Bouanga move from left-to-right inside the box after which the Gabon international whipped a lovely right-footer around Guzmán and inside the far post.

Ref Drew Fisher was quickly surrounded by protesting players and eventually was convinced (by whom, it’s not clear) to annul the goal.

By that time, Fisher had earned all the criticism that will come his way after a dreadful performance. Fisher whistled fouls on the wrong player (in minute 57, Javier Aquino went in for a steal and was stamped on by Cristian Olivera but the Tigres player was called for the foul), ignored fouls and even invented one very bad foul.

In minute 63, Sebastián Córdova appeared to have been cut down on a breakaway and the Canadian official immediately pointed at Diego Palacios and reached for his yellow card. Unfortunately – as video replay confirmed – Palacios did not touch Córdova. Even more unfortunate, the yellow card was Palacio’s second, so LAFC was down to 10 men.

Despite being a man down, LAFC seemed the more dangerous for the next few minutes. They refused to concede any spaces, getting to balls first and turning Tigres advances aside, demonstrating they were the fitter, more athletic team.

In minute 84, Rafael Carioca mishandled a back pass and Bouanga swooped in, gathering up the loose ball. The Tigres midfielder compounded his mistake by tackling the LAFC forward, earning a straight red card.

The remaining minutes of the 10-on-10 game featured just one moment of excitement. In minute 88, the two sides replicated a Keystone Kops escapade inside the LAFC box (a wild scramble featuring deflections, stumbles, diving saves and mishits). The comedy sketch ended with André-Pierre Gignac firing just wide of the far post.

Just before the final whistle, coach Steve Cherundolo subbed in goalie John McCarthy to handle the penalty kicks (the back-up ‘keeper was the hero of LAFC’s shootout victory in last year’s MLS title game).

Then came the shootout and Tigres was pristine, while the hosts were not.

After both clubs converted their first kicks, it got interesting.

Guzmán stopped LAFC’s second try (by Timothy Tillman) while McCarthy got his hand on a high thumper by Nicolás Ibáñez but couldn’t prevent the ball from rippling the roof of the net.

LAFC skipper Ilie Sánchez leveled the score at 2-2 but that was short-lived as McCarthy guessed right again but could not reach Guido Pizarro’s seeing-eye shot.

Guzmán put on his cape and easily blocked a poor half-Panenka effort by Ryan Hollingshead and Tigres was one conversion from hoisting the trophy.

Up stepped left back Angulo, McCarthy staring him down knowing that if he didn’t come up with a save, the match was over. McCarthy guessed right again, diving to his left at full stretch but Angulo’s low shot scooted underneath the airborne goalie.

Tigres double their pleasure

The Campeones Cup which pits the MLS champs vs the winner of the Liga MX Champions Cup started in 2018.

Remember, Liga MX plays two seasons per year so its Campeones Cup participant is determined by the winner of the Champions Cup. Tigres (Clausura 2023 winners) defeated Pachuca (Apertura 2022 champs) 2-1 on June 25.

Tigres won the inaugural contest back in 2018 (3-1 over Toronto FC) and MLS squads won the next three:

2019 – Atlanta United 3-2 over América

2020 – Canceled – Covid

2021 – Columbus Crew 2-0 over Cruz Azul

2022 – NYFC 2-0 over Atlas

dark. Next. Liga MX at midpoint: By the Numbers

Four Tigres players – Nahuel Guzmán, Guido Pizarro, Rafael Carioca and André-Pierre Gignac – played in the 2018 Campeones Cup.