LAFC kicked off its third season Sunday afternoon with a 1-0 victory against newly admitted Inter Miami at Banc of California Stadium. Sunday’s game was the first for the Miami team, and was the beginning of a new frontier for team president David Beckham.
The Black and Gold came into Sunday’s game on tired legs after defeating Mexican powerhouse Leon 3-0 to advance to the Concacaf Champions League semifinal.
Despite being outclassed in possession by LAFC at 61%, Inter Miami impressed fans by holding their own for most of the first half without conceding a single goal. That changed in the 44th minute when LAFC star forward Carlos Vela scored an incredible goal by volleying the ball from the left corner of the penalty box.
The goal was a conventional one for Vela, but even more special as Sunday afternoon’s game also happened to be Vela’s 31st birthday.
“We get just an amazing goal,” said coach Bob Bradley about Vela’s effort. “When you come to see football and the game is determined on a play like that, to finish it off with that delicate chip-in, that was incredible.”
The scoreline for LAFC could have been 3-0, but forward Diego Rossi had two goals called back for offsides in the early parts of both the first and second half. Rossi, however, was still happy about the team’s performance.
“The most important thing was the team’s mentality to focus on the league,” Rossi told MLS.com. “That was most important, and I feel like that reflected on the field with the attitude we showed.”
A big theme of Sunday’s opener was goalkeeping. Inter Miami also gave a valiant effort in goalkeeper performance despite the 44th minute goal from Carlos Vela; goalkeeper Luis Robles ended the game with eight saves.
New LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer calmed Black and Gold fans’ fears of inconsistent goalkeeping with seven saves
“He is a world class goalie,” said midfielder Mark Anthony Kaye on Vermeer. “I’m not surprised at anything he’s done at the games because I see it done at training, but it is a plus having him back there knowing that he’s able to keep some clean sheets for us.”
Vermeer’s seven save performance gives Black and Gold fans hope that their team will be ready come late in the season and playoff time. Vermeer’s performance is one of the main reasons LAFC was considered an early favorite to win the MLS Cup coming into the season.
Despite the confident debut performance from Inter Miami, LAFC outmatched the new expansion franchise in passing as the Black and Gold completed 81% of their 485 passes.
LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing left the game toward the end of the second half with an injury. As of right now, no information has been released on the severity of the injury.
Sunday afternoon’s game was the first of a 34-game long campaign, and the Black and Gold are looking to rebound after a disappointing Western Conference Final exit last season against eventual-champion Seattle.
Even though the Black and Gold broke the league record for regular season points last season, LAFC supporters are looking beyond team and individual records and are expecting nothing less than their team to hoist the MLS Cup come November.
LAFC’s next game will be against the Philadelphia Union next Sunday at Banc of California Stadium. The Union will be no easy test for LAFC, as they were one of the Eastern Conference standouts last season.
Next Sunday’s game against Philadelphia is scheduled for 7:30 p.m PST and will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN.