The quest for a third major (we’ll call this a major trophy?) under Brian Schmetzer continues on Wednesday night (7 PM PT, ESPN2/UniMás/TUDN) when Seattle Sounders face Club León in the Leagues Cup Final. On the neutral pitch of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas the MLS dynasty takes on a recently surging León.
Last season León earned a combined record of 20-8-6, +15, won the Apertura and qualified for both the Concacaf Champions League and the Leagues Cup. This year they are under a new manager (Ariel Holan) with an early record of 4-2-3, +3. Like Seattle, the Lions are in middle of a bunch of two-match weeks, and rested talent in their weekend loss to FC Juarez.
Ángel Mena is off to a great start, following up his 17-goal 20/21 with four in league play this year. He only scored once in Leagues Cup, when León smashed Sporting KC 6-1. To advance to the final León beat Pumas 2-0.
Omar Fernández, Santiago Colombatto, and Raúl Ruidíaz are all tied with two goals a piece in Leagues Cup action.
SaH: Club León rested several starters in their league match over the weekend. Was that part of their preparation for the Leagues Cup final or was that just because Juarez has had a poor season so far?
Lion’s Den: Club León had some minor changes versus Juarez, names like William Tesillo, Ivan “Jefecito” Rodriguez and Victor Davila. In a course of 11 days they will have played 4 games, intense. Ahead of a final match up mid-week, it was understandable for those players to rest. A William Tesillo who has been absolute back bone, Jefecito who seems to have recovered his upbringing form from a few seasons ago and the Chilean Davila feeling himself lately adding to his scoreboard. What has fans content nowadays in the depth that Club Leon has been stacking up, something that was hard to come by. What we saw Saturday night was a frustrating night for la fiera, very sloppy futbol, first loss in the past 9 games for Ariel Holan and by a free-kick (on point goal). Definitely a confidence boost for Juarez, all eyes on Tuca as he took reigns, back-to-back wins versus Cruz Azul and now a very dominant León who let down at home.
SaH: What formation and playing style do León use most of the time?
LD: In regards to style of play, León is an attack-minded team. The typical formation being used is a 4-2-3-1. Nacho Ambriz definitely left a blueprint to this team at his departure. Leon was in need for the next coach to continue to pursue the embedded style of this team and if anything add the depth needed. Ariel Holan has maintained and made few changes, for example pursuing a traditional style with fullbacks while Ambriz displayed a modern idea to invert fullbacks. Under Nacho Ambriz we saw an influence of Guardiola like mentioned, modern era of futbol. In regards to Ariel Holan, this being his first season, we are content with what we’ve seen so far. We hope for a successful end of season for him in the hopes of a long jovial project with la fiera.
SaH: They aren’t one of the giants of Liga MX. How big would beating Seattle be?
LD: The conception of what is considered a giant in LigaMX can be perplexed (Haha) The gang of The Lion’s Den Podcast have discussed this in many episodes. All in all, getting to a final was the aim of this tournament. There’s games that we don’t talk about (vs LAFC and vs Toronto) in CCL for obvious reasons (Haha). León’s focus is to win a final regardless of who their rival is. Although we all know the low-key talk will be if a LigaMX team wins or an MLS team. A win like this would add a hardware for the club, a first title for Ariel Holan early on and an optimistic drive to attain the #GritaMexico title.