Photo: Michael Owens/Getty Images
Four months after having lifted his first MLS Cup right there, LAFC returned to its field this Saturday just to continue with the joys and celebrations. The defending MLS champions opened their 2023 debut with an emotional ceremony in front of their fans and then rounded off the evening with a good if rushed win.
LAFC, leading comfortably 3-0, beat the Portland Timbers 3-2 at BMO Stadium – the new name of the Exposition Park stadium – in its first game of the 2023 season. The black and gold team did not see action in the opening week due to bad weather in Southern California that forced the postponement of the match against the LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl.
Ahead of debut game, LAFC celebrated their 2022 MLS championship, when the team miraculously rose in extra time with a goal from Gareth Bale to later crown themselves on penalties against Philadelphia. Welshman Bale, who retired a few weeks ago, reappeared in the stadium helping to carry the MLS Cup.
Minutes later, all the members of the 2022 squad received their champion rings, which have a spectacular design with many details alluding to the epic conquest of last November and where black diamonds dominate.
Among the personalities present at the protocol ceremony was the mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass, who was in charge of guiding the flight of the falcon, a tradition in each team game in their stadium.
The afternoon was a little chilly after a series of thunderstorms in Southern California, but the passionate LAFC fans did not stop shouting, jumping and dancing, true to form. The fervor included a giant mesh in the tribune of bar 3252 with the image of Vela lifting the MLS Cup.
And the party continued with the unveiling of the MLS champion banner, which now hangs from the top of the grandstand. east of the stadium on Calle Figueroa.
LAFC thrashed 3-0, but then it got complicated
LAFC started with McCarthy in goal; Hollingshead, Murillo, Chiellini and Palacios in defense; Sánchez, Acosta and Cifuentes in the midfield; Vela, Bouanga and Opoku up front. The lineup is almost the same as in the last final, but with the obvious absence of Colombian Cristian Arangowho is now a Pachuca player.
LAFC opened the scoring through an unprecedented scorer. Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini found a rebound inside the area and without thinking twice slapped the ball into the net in the 24th minute for his first goal in MLS.
Vela made it 2-0 at 34′ via the penalty. The charge of him hitting the post to beat goalkeeper David Bingham was the 80th goal for the Mexican star with the LAFC shirt in all competitions.
The penalty was marked by a foul by Santiago Moreno on Kwadwo Opoku.
And the LAFC captain, who at the beginning of the second half was about to score a great goal from a free kick, when the ball hit the post, was part of the combination that resulted in the 3-0 at 52′ against an overflowing defense of the visiting team. Opoku scored with an assist from the Mexican.
Vela came off the substitution at minute 65 just after Portland had pulled back (3-1) through Evanderthe Brazilian who was the star signing of the team for this campaign.
LAFC was losing strength and Portland took the opportunity to take control of the game. At 84′, Paraguayan Christian Paredes made it 3-2 in a play in which local goalkeeper John McCarthy had made a bad start.
The final minutes were dramatic, but LAFC survived in their box to pick up their first three points of 2023.
– Cristian Arango, from LAFC, surprises as Sportsman of the Year in Los Angeles over Urías and Ohtani
– Carlos Vela begins to envision his retirement: “There are not many seasons left for me”
– Inter Miami intends to hire Messi according to the words of his own coach