LAFC battles rival Seattle on Saturday
April 22, 2021
LAFC successfully opened their fourth MLS season with a 2-0 victory over newcomer Austin FC last Saturday afternoon, April 17, at the Banc of California Stadium. The match didn't exactly go according to script as star forwards Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi were not on the field in the second half when the Black and Gold scored both goals to spoil Austin FC's league debut.
"I thought we did a really good job of starting the second half in that way," said a satisfied LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "I thought our subs came on, did a good job. Really unselfish. Great play by Mahala (Opoku) and an unselfish pass to know that the easy goal was to play across to Cifu (Jose Cifuentes). Great there. Corey (Baird) gets first goal. Pablo (Sisniega) makes a couple of saves. So good things there."
Bradley substituted for Vela in the 22nd minute after Vela lunged for a cross and then motioned for a trainer. Bradley interpreted the Vela's sign as asking to leave the match. "When he went off the field, he had a look and he gave me a little indication, and then he came over and it was almost like he wanted to try." But Bradley had already inserted Opoku and Vela's day was done.
"If he gives a little bit of a look like I need to come off, and then he comes over and at the last second, says, no, let me try, it's too late at that point," said Bradley. "So I told him quickly, look, I thought you needed to come off. I take responsibility. Sorry about that," responded Bradley ending the misunderstanding.
Rossi was scratched from the starting lineup as a precautionary measure concerning his hamstring. Danny Musovski took Rossi's spot to start the game. "Maybe he slipped a little bit and felt something," Bradley continued to say. "The images don't seem bad. So, I'd like to think that he's not out long. But he still felt a little something, and once again, there was no reason to push it if he wasn't comfortable."
After a scoreless first half forward Corey Baird delivered in the 61st minute on an assist from Musovski to open the scoring. Baird's deflected kick beat Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver just inside the left post for his first goal playing with LAFC. "It was awesome, getting out in front of the fans, getting my debut, getting a goal, getting our first win of the season, can't ask for much more than that," said Baird.
Cifuentes slammed the door on Austin FC in the 91st minute with an easy put-away on an assist from Opoku. It was the second career goal for the second-year midfielder while Opoku registered his second assist playing in his fourth match for the club. LAFC has won each of its four home openers, including three shutouts. Their inaugural opener was a 1-0 clean sheet over the Seattle Sounders in March 2018, LAFC's next opponent at the Banc this Saturday afternoon starting 3:00 p.m.
The Sounders routed Minnesota United, 4-0, in their home opener last Friday as star forward Raul Ruidiaz scored two goals. LAFC won the last match between the two Western Conference rivals at the at home 3-1, with Musovski scoring two goals in October of last season. LAFC enjoys a slight 5-1-4 edge over Seattle in their 10 previous meetings, with only one match ending in a draw.
Seattle, who have reached the MLS Cup four of the last five years lost 3-0 to the Columbus Crew in last season's MLS Cup Final. But they begin this season with a changed lineup. Winger Jordan Morris suffered his second torn ACL in the last four years while on loan to Swansea City this February. Experienced players such as Joevin Jones, Gustav Svensson, and Kelving Leerdam are also gone. Yet, 33-year old Fredy Montero is back with the club after eight years and delighted fans by scoring a late goal against Minnesota.
LAFC has to be encouraged by goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega's shutout and performance against Austin FC. Sisniega made a number of excellent saves late in match to preserve the win. As a bonus, a limited number of fans, including the always impressive The 3252 Supporters group, were present at the Banc of California Stadium to witness the shutout.
"It felt great to be back at the Banc," said Sisniega. "It definitely felt amazing to have the fans. Even though it's a limited-capacity crowed, it felt like we had the support of them behind us the whole game. And that just makes a huge difference for us. Very happy with the team and with the win and obviously with the clean sheet."
It was also Musovski's first match playing with The 3252 in attendance as he joined the club during last season when the COVID pandemic forced the fans to be absent during matches. "It was really good. And although it was, what, 5,000 people, I swear it felt like it was 18,000 people because it was so loud and they brought so much energy and that energy transferred to us on the field, and that was special."
In a moment of silence before the start of the match, LAFC unveiled a special Tifo for super supporter Mo Fascio, who recently passed away due to the COVID-19 virus. The players wore armbands in his memory. "His personality and his presence and how much he loved LAFC just came across every time we got a chance to be around him," said Bradley.
"The memory of him in the locker room with some others with the supporter shield, I saw it again," said Bradley. "I always think back to that night, and you know, seeing him holding the supporter shield and that smile showed how much LAFC meant to him and as a result, he meant an incredible amount to all of us."