Carlos Vela received a rude welcome in his return to Mexico on Tuesday, with fans at Estadio León booing him every time he touched the ball. But the harshest part of the homecoming was the final score, with León defeating Vela’s LAFC 2-0 in the round of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League.
The teams will meet in the return leg of the two-game playoff Feb. 27 at Banc of California Stadium. The winner, determined on aggregate goals, will advance to next month’s tournament quarterfinals.
The game was the first club match in Mexico for Vela, who played in two World Cups for the national team but has spent his entire club career in Europe and the U.S. And though he played well early on, León marked him tightly and kept him from being a factor.
Many of his teammates, meanwhile, looked to be in preseason form — which is fair since LAFC’s league season doesn’t start for another 12 days. Right back Tristan Blackmon had a particularly bad time on the first goal, losing track of Jean Meneses on a long diagonal ball from Fernando Navarro, then after a quick recovery, slipping in the box and allowing Meneses to step around him and drive a right-footed shot just inside the near post in the 21st minute.
León got an insurance goal in the final minute of regulation after Mohamed El-Munir lost the ball to León’s Luis Montes deep in the LAFC end. Montes, who was active all night, then pushed the ball forward to Angel Mena, who had an easy finish from close range.