Kwadwo Opoku and Carlos Vela lead LAFC to victory in Gareth Bale’s L.A. debut

LAFC forward Cristian Arango and Seattle Sounders defender Jimmy Medranda battle for the ball.
LAFC forward Cristian Arango, left, and Seattle Sounders defender Jimmy Medranda battle for the ball during the first half of LAFC’s 2-1 win Friday at Banc of California Stadium.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Kwadwo Opoku and Carlos Vela scored in the first half, and LAFC beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 Friday night in the home debuts of European superstars Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale.

MLS-leading LAFC (15-4-3) earned its season-best fourth consecutive victory and moved seven points clear of Austin atop the Western Conference during its longest winning streak since 2019. LAFC is also six points ahead Philadelphia in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.

Seattle scored on an early own-goal by LAFC, but still dropped to 0-5-1 at Banc of California during the regular season. The Sounders won the 2019 Western Conference final here.


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July 29, 2022

Chiellini started and played 71 minutes, while Bale came on as a substitute in the 63rd minute of both players’ third match with their new club. The duo’s moves to LAFC this summer turned a team that was already atop the MLS table into a potential powerhouse for the final three months of the season.

Bale, who scored his first MLS goal at Kansas City last week, got several standing ovations from the lively crowd. Chiellini also got loud cheers when he checked out.

Chiellini and LAFC were cheered on in the front row at Banc of California Stadium by Ángel Di María and several other players from Juventus, the club that employed Chiellini for the past 17 seasons. Juventus is in Los Angeles on its U.S. summer tour to face Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. Bale also visited his former Madrid teammates at their training session in Los Angeles earlier this week.

Seattle went ahead in the 14th minute when Cristian Roldan forced a turnover and made a sizzling cross into the box, where a sliding Jesús Murillo tipped it into his own net.

LAFC appeared to score in the 27th minute with a thunderous strike by Vela, but the goal was disallowed when video review indicated Vela used his arm to settle the ball.

Opoku still evened it eight minutes later with an impressive strike of his own, threading a shot between two Sounders and past a diving Stefan Frei. The 21-year-old Ghanaian forward known better known as Mahala is finding his groove in MLS with five goals this season.

Vela got the go-ahead goal in the 43rd minute when he slid to deflect José Cifuentes’ beautiful cross past Frei at point-blank range.