Carlos Vela laughs as he views a display on a teammate's personal device during the introduction of players and coaches at the first training camp of the Los Angeles Football Club MLS soccer team on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
The long-awaited inaugural Major League Soccer season for Los Angeles FC begins Sunday, as the team travels to Seattle to take on the Sounders and begin to build a new culture for Los Angeles soccer fans.
At the conclusion of preseason play, LAFC remains undefeated, picking up three draws and a win.
The team opened the season with a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC, the reigning MLS champion, and striker Marco Ureña picked up both goals. Ureña held down the line again in a chippy 1-1 draw with NYCFC. Against Vancouver, LAFC fought back from a two-goal deficit twice to manage a 4-4 draw. Carlos Vela picked up two strikes in that game to open his account in the black and gold.
The team finally notched its first victory with a 1-0 road win over United Soccer League side Sacramento Republic FC, with 2018 MLS SuperDraft No. 1 pick João Moutinho picking up the lone goal for LAFC.
Now, the team looks ahead to regular season play and a chance to forge its new place in the MLS.
LAFC debuts against scrappy Sounders
When: March 4, 2:00 p.m.
Where: CenturyLink Field
Broadcast: TV — ESPN
Live stream: Youtube TV
The buzz: As a new team, the season opener for LAFC will set the tone for the club in a broader sense. Early success will be vital for the team to gain traction with a new fanbase in a city with an already established team, and playing Seattle on the road is no easy way to kick that off. The Sounders enter this season with a chip on their shoulders after a 2-0 loss in the MLS Cup to Toronto.
With an array of senior leadership at their helm, including American stars Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, the Sounders will be well-poised to return to the MLS playoffs this year. LAFC will need to be prepared to slow the offensive pace of Dempsey and Will Bruin, who respectively scored 12 and 11 goals last season. The weekend will also be a homecoming for midfielder Aaron Kovar, who left Seattle for Los Angeles on loan for the 2018 season.
Other key matches
March 31 at LA Galaxy – This matchup will be about much more than just a game of soccer. The matchup with the Galaxy will be the first on-the-field clash between two teams who battle every week for control over the pulse of soccer in Los Angeles.
April 29 vs Seattle Sounders – After almost two months of MLS regular season play, LAFC will finally return to Los Angeles for the club’s first home game. This will be the first MLS match to take place in the newly-constructed Banc of California stadium. The game will be a rematch of the team’s season opener, giving the club a chance to showcase its growth since the first match and to ignite the local fan base.
August 1 at Toronto FC – By this point in the season, the young club will have had plenty of time to establish a team dynamic. Hanging with last season’s champions would provide a significant boost of momentum, and prove to fans and opponents alike that LAFC is a team that is here to stay.
Check out the full 2018 schedule here.
Quotes and Notes
As his team heads into its first week of regular season play, head coach Bob Bradley is keeping his players focused on what the new club means to its city.
“From the beginning, LAFC set out to be a Club that connected with the heart of LA, that understood the diversity of the city and made sure that we could be a team that people could look at, be a part of, and feel proud,” Bradley said. “Everyone that has been a part of LAFC from the beginning, has done an incredible job of building momentum. We’ve got to take that on the field.”
From the beginning, Bradley has been honest about the challenges that his team will face throughout this season. He described the preliminary weeks of practice as being similar to the first day of school, with players and staff alike learning to be comfortable with one another on and off of the field. As Bradley’s team now travels to face a slew of experienced squads, he is hoping to keep them focused on weekly growth rather than immediate results.
“When all is said and done, it’s the first game of the season,” Bradley said. “Both teams are going to put 11 on the field. The ref is going to blow the whistle and it’s going to be a chance to show, for the first time, everybody a little bit of LAFC wants to be.”
Biggest offseason moves
- From the start, LAFC proved that it was willing to invest in its preliminary roster, picking up Mexican star Carlos Vela and American favorite Benny Feilhaber to form the core of the young team.
- The club selected defender João Moutinho with its No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft in January. Since then, the Portuguese native has already scored once for LAFC, notching his first goal in black and gold to lift the team to a win against Sacramento last weekend.
- With its No. 3 overall pick in the SuperDraft, LAFC selected 21-year-old defender Tristan Blackmon. Blackmon earned accolades as the 2017 West Coast Defender of the Year while playing at the University of the Pacific. This is Blackmon’s first professional contract.
- On Feb. 27, LAFC signed Columbian midfielder Eduard Atuesta. The 20-year-old appeared in 44 games for Independiente Medellín, helping the team to a league title in 2016. He has served as the captain of the Colombian U-20 national team, and played for his country in the South American Championship. Atuesta is expected to contribute immediately to a midfield that was initially thin at the start of the season.
Forwards – Tristan Blackmon, 21; Latif Blessing, 21; Rodrigo Pacheco, 21; Diego Rossi, 19; Marco Ureña, 27; Carlos Vela, 28
Midfielders – Eduard Atuesta, 20; Benny Feilhaber, 33; Omar Gaber, 26; Mark-Anthony Kaye, 23; Aaron Kovar, 24; Calum Mallace, 28
Defenders – Steven Beitashour, 31; Laurent Ciman, 32; Omar Gaber, 26; Jordan Harvey, 34; Dejan Jaković, 32; Joao Moutinho, 20; Walker Zimmerman, 24
Goalkeepers – Luis López, 22; Tyler Miller, 24
See full roster details here.