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Soccer

LAFC opens 2019 play at Banc of California Stadium against Japan’s Vissel Kobe

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2018: Los Angeles Football Club fans rally as the player
Banc of California Stadium is the site for LAFC’s game against Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday at 7 p.m.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

LAFC returns to Banc of California Stadium for the first time in 2019 when it plays host to Japan’s Vissel Kobe in a friendly Thursday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Vissel opened its winter tour of Southern California on Tuesday by playing the Columbus Crew to a scoreless tie in an abbreviated scrimmage in Irvine.

Vissel’s three World Cup champions — Andres Iniesta and David Villa of Spain, and Lukas Podolski of Germany — played limited minutes. They are scheduled to play Thursday.

LAFC opened its exhibition schedule with a 3-1 victory over Toronto on Sunday. Carlos Vela, who will stay with LAFC now that rumors of a loan to Barcelona have faded, set up goals by Andre Horta and Diego Rossi, and Peter-Lee Vassell accounted for the third score.

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Coach Bob Bradley used 24 players in that closed-door scrimmage and is expected to clear the bench again Thursday.

On Wednesday, LAFC finalized the signing of Salvadoran forward Rodolfo “Fito” Zelaya, 30. The second-leading scorer in national team history with 21 goals in 44 games, Zelaya was given a one-year ban by FIFA in 2013 for his involvement in a game-fixing scandal.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11

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