Ola Kamara debuts with a goal as Galaxy beat Timbers in opener

Galaxy defender Michael Ciani (28) steals the ball from Portland striker Fanendo Adi in the first half of Sunday night’s MLS season opener at StubHub Center.
(Steve Gazzulo / For The Times)

Although much attention in Major League Soccer on Sunday afternoon centered around the debut of LAFC, the league’s newest expansion franchise, the Southland’s other team made sure it had its share of the headlines.

Ola Kamara and Romain Alessandrini scored two minutes apart midway through the first half, and the Galaxy went on to defeat the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the season opener for both teams before a sellout crowd of 25,462 at StubHub Center.

The five-time MLS Cup champions nearly caused the blue, gold and white confetti to rain down on the field in the first minute, earning a corner kick after a four-on-three attack had the Timbers’ defense scrambling to recover.

“We wanted to get a victory ... so three points is the most important thing,” Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said.

“It was a bit perilous in the back at times but we also had opportunities to score another four or five on the other end.”


David Bingham made his first save in a Galaxy uniform in the fourth minute on a leaping header by Portland captain Liam Ridgewell off a corner kick. Bingham, an MLS All-Star with the San Jose Earthquakes last season, made another point-blank save in the 10th minute that seemed to spark his own team’s offense.

Kamara, also making his Galaxy debut after tallying 34 goals and five assists in two years with Columbus Crew, sent the fans into a frenzy by redirecting a headed ball into the net in the 32nd minute, off assists from Venezuelan national team regular Rolf Feltscher and Jonathan dos Santos.

“Ola is constantly a threat to get behind the defense,” said Schmid, who replaced Curt Onalfo amid a five-game losing skid last July (and is the winningest coach in league history).

Alessandrini, who earned Galaxy player of the year honors with 13 goals and 12 assists, scored in the 34th minute. He slid and banged a shot off the post, but the rebound bounced right back to him and he booted it underneath goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.

Rounding out the starting lineup for the Galaxy were Frenchman Michael Ciani, Norway’s Jorgen Skjelvik and captain Ashley Cole on defense; Perry Kitchen in the midfield; and Mexican Giovani dos Santos and Emmanuel Boateng of Ghana on the forward line.

“Emma [Boateng] is fantastic with his speed,” Schmid said. “The final stage for him is to finish what he starts. If he does he wouldn’t be playing for us, he’d be playing in Europe.”

Portland got a goal back in the 66th minute on a shot from the left wing by Sebastian Blanco, who took a feed from Fanendo Adi and dribbled to within 10 yards of the goal before beating Bingham near post.

Alessandrini was issued a yellow card for a hard foul in the 18th minute and Ciani was given a yellow in the 89th minute for the Galaxy, who were outshot 15-14 and earned four corner kicks to the Timbers’ six.

Alessandrini pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury and was subbed out for Chris Pontius in the 61st minute. Sebastian Lletget replaced Gio dos Santos in the 72nd minute and Servando Carrasco came in for Boateng in the 82nd minute.

The Galaxy improved to 8-6-5 all-time against their Western League rivals and are now 14-8-2 in home openers. Navigating a roster that includes 12 new players, Schmid took a lot of positives from the first chapter of a 34-game saga stretching until the end of October.

“For the most part our defensive work was good, Bingham was solid in goal, except we didn’t manage the last 15 minutes well,” Schmid said. “Sure, you want to get that third goal to put them away, but we should’ve played the ball to the sides and the corners more.”