No Rossi, No Vela, No Problem
With their largest win in a home season debut, LAFC outlasted new boys Austin FC 2-0. In only what could be described as an awkward and ho-hum game, LAFC were able to find their footing in the last 30 minutes of the match to come away with three points.
One of the main talking points before kickoff was the missing winger, Diego Rossi. He was questionable coming into the game, and it was revealed that he was a game-time decision to play in the season opener. His hamstring has a slight twinge, and during warmups, it did not give him or the trainers confidence, so he was scratched altogether. Corey Baird ended up taking his place, which gave dividends by the end of the game.
More notably, Carlos Vela, the team captain and heartbeat of the team, was subbed off in the 21st minute of the game. He made a run that made him really stretch out and ended up being hobbled from it. He looked like he was going to continue, but Bob Bradley ended up subbing him out with Kwadwo Opoku. Vela was fuming after the substitution and Bradley looked defeated after the call. Bradley ended up admitting that he was too quick with his pull and Vela was likely able to continue. No matter, the two DPs for LAFC were out and the team needed to find a way to stabilize and get points from the game.
Finally, after a very boring and pedestrian 60 minutes, one of the new acquisitions for the Black & Gold, Baird, was able to make his impact. He finally got a shot off, one that deflected hard off the inner thigh of an Austin player, and somehow found the back of the net. The 4,900 fans in the stadium erupted, making the Banc of California Stadium seem normal.
LAFC continued to push to find the second goal, but Austin FC kept on intercepting passing the middle of the pitch to throw LAFC off. The number of turnovers was crazy for this team, especially without Rossi and Vela. But LAFC held their own and found ways to keep possession and take chances on goal.
Finally, the game was put away in the 90+1 minute when Opoku was able to steal the ball off an Austin defender and give it to José Cifuentes, which ended up being his second goal in his MLS career. The game was over, everyone in the Banc had a big sigh of relief, and the team ends starting a season with a win once again. The 2-0 victory ends up being the largest win in their home debut (all other games were won by a one-goal margin). Even Mark-Anthony Kaye posted on Twitter that it was very much a “team victory.”
With three points in the bag, LAFC set their sights on Seattle, who play at the Banc of California Stadium on Saturday, Apr. 24. The game is being shown nationally, again, as both teams are expected to vie for the MLS Cup.