Corey Baird and Jose Cifuentes scored in the second half and Pablo Sisniega made three saves as the Los Angeles Football Club defeated Austin FC, 2-0, Saturday in the Major League Soccer season openers for both teams.
Baird opened the scoring in the 61st minute, taking a pass from Danny Musovski and hitting a right-footed shot that deflected into the net.
LAFC scored the insurance goal one minute into stoppage time when Mahala Opoku broke in behind the Austin FC defense and centered a pass to Cifuentes who tapped his shot into the open net.
LAFC led 24-12 in shots and 9-3 in shots on target.
Austin FC had only one shot on target in the first 89 minutes in its MLS debut.
“Very good team win,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “In stretches we played well. We created a lot of chances. I thought we were a little bit impatient at times in the first half.”
LAFC played without Diego Rossi, the MLS scoring leader in 2020, because of hamstring injury. Carlos Vela, the MLS MVP and leading scorer in 2019, left the game in the 22nd minute because of a knee injury.
Bradley said after the game he “jumped the gun” in taking Vela out.
“You make quick decisions,” Bradley said. “Sometimes you take a guy off because you think, you know what, I don’t want it to get worse. It’s the first game of the year.
“So yes, I jumped the gun, but as a coach, you do a lot of things that players don’t agree with or don’t like. And you don’t go around apologizing for everything every day, either. You say here is what I did, it’s on me, and that’s it and we all move on.”
Vela was not made available to reporters after the game.
A player who is taken out of the game cannot return.
The game was LAFC’s first official game at Banc of California Stadium with fans since March 8, 2020. The attendance was announced at 4,900 in the approximately 22,000-seat stadium.
“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,” Musovski said.
Baird said “the fans played a huge role today just keeping us going and giving us that energy.”
LAFC players wore black armbands during in memory of Mauricio “Mo” Fascio, one of the founding members and vice president of the team’s fan group, the 3252 Independent Supporters Union, who died March 19 from COVID-19.
Fascio “was an instrumental part of the core leadership team that created one of the most electrifying live sports environments in North America,” according to LAFC.
LAFC described Fascio as “a larger-than-life presence in the North End” where the members of the fan group stand during the team’s games and praised him for his “unwavering commitment to our club, football culture and the Los Angeles community.”
“He led by example,” the statement said. “He put others first. He was always there for us. He made us all better. He was our heart.”
LAFC plans to honor Fascio and his memory throughout the 2021 season through community events and programming to support causes important to his family.
All fans in attendance received a “Forza Mo” armband.
A tribute to Fascio was played on the stadium’s video board before the game.
“His personality and his presence and how much he loved LAFC just came across every time we got a chance to be around him,” Bradley said after the game.