With Mexican fans celebrating their country’s independence, there was a festive atmosphere in the ground for this Leagues Cup semifinal, played on a humid evening in Houston. Club León arrived at BBVA Compass Stadium in top form. The Guanajuato club came into the match on a seven-match unbeaten run; buoyed by a large number of their fans, they looked to build on a thumping 6-1 quarterfinal win over Sporting Kansas City. After a thrilling draw against Tigres at the weekend, León would look to win another trophy at the expense of the same Pumas side who they’d beaten in the 2020 Guard1anes Liguilla final.
Pumas had done well to beat NYCFC in the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup last month, but their form had otherwise been middling to start the season. With just one win and four goals scored over their first eight Liga BBVA MX Grita México A21 matches, the DF side have had a tough time of late, but had kept clean sheets in two of their last three matches, and could call on the vastly experienced in Alfredo Talavera in goal, the Mexican international being the caliber of player who can turn a match with his ability.
Pumas had the first chance of the match, but Favio Álvarez’s tame shot was easily saved by Rodolfo Cota. The match would quickly turn, though, as Sebastián Saucedo was sent off for an awful challenge on Jean Meneses, giving León a numerical advantage at the earliest opportunity (3’). Pumas sat deep and played a compact style, with León hoping to widen the pitch, but they were initially slow to take advantage of having a man more on the pitch, and were almost caught out by Dinenno on the counter, only for the striker to fire over from the edge of the area (14’).
León would respond almost immediately, though, with Santiago Colombatto bundling home from a corner after the Pumas defense failed to clear (16’). The Panzas Verdes would keep up the pressure, winning a succession of corners some ten minutes later before Talavera came up with a big save to deny Meneses (27’). Pumas would win a free kick some forty yards per goal, but it would fail to come to anything. Despite dominating the ball, León would have few chances in the final third of the half, and it would remain 1-0 at the break.
Pumas would make a pair of changes and remain resilient as the second half started, with Juan Dinenno skipping into the box and seeing his shot blocked (47’). León responded with some half chances, but it would be some twenty minutes before another Santiago, Ormeño would double León’s lead, finishing across goal on a well-executed counter. (68’)
The DF native would even come close to a second, being denied by Talavera after expertly splitting two defenders (78’). Léon sensed a third was possible, and continued to push for another goal — Ormeño would even have the ball in the net as regular time headed to a close, only for the offside flag to deny him a double (89’).
With the result thus sealed, León calmly saw out the match, and punched their ticket for a spot in next week’s final against Seattle Sounders. Set for next Wednesday, September 22, at 10 ET/7 PT at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the match will see an MLS vs. Liga BBVA MX Grita México A21 final! Tickets are still available; get yours here.
Leagues Cup Semifinal
Club León 2-0 Pumas
Club León: Colombatto (16'), Ormeño (68')
Club León: Tesillo (12'), Ormeño (85')
Pumas: López (84'), Talavera (90')
Pumas: Saucedo (5')
Club León: Cota; Ramírez (Burón 86’), Barreiro, Tesillo, O. Rodríguez (Mosquera 86’); Fernández (Ormeño 57’), Colombatto, I. Rodríguez (Montes 57’), Meneses; Mena (Hernández 82’), Dávila
Substitutes: Burón, Hernández, Giggliotti, Mosquera, Ambriz, Ormeño, Villa, Vázquez, Montes, Zamora, Rangel, Zamudio
Manager: Ariel Holan
Pumas: Talavera; A. Álvarez (Mozo 46’), Ortíz, Freire, Rodríguez; Galindo, Meritão (M. García 79’), Lira (López 46’); Saucedo, Dinenno (Rogerio 78’), F. Álvarez (Corozo 68’)
Substitutes: Mozo, Moreno, García, López, Velarde, González, Rogerio, Torres, Corozo, García, Rivas, García
Manager: Andrés Lillini
Photo: USA Today