LOS ANGELES, CA – For the first time in over a year, the Los Angeles Football Club played a match with fans attending. While not filled to capacity, The Banc was once again alive with the banging of drums, endless chants, and the vibrations of thousands in attendance, jumping, for their football club. While the match started off sluggish, LAFC were able to seal the win in the opener, via two second half goals.
LAFC Win With Late Goals, Sisniega Shines in 2021 Return
On paper, Los Angeles were the heavy favorite. While the final scoreline reflected such, the match was a lot more difficult than the scoreline lets on. LAFC came out with their typical fast start, peppering the goal with chances, to no avail. Austin FC did well to weather the initial storm, even managing to put a few goal scoring opportunities together. The first half ended scoreless, and with both teams playing like it was the first match of the season. While LAFC finished the half with 11 shots to Austin FC’s four, it was the away side who enjoyed more of the possession, at 51% for the half.
The second half started out much like the first. With LAFC putting the pressure on, with a much more improved sense of self. The passing was crisper, and patience permeated throughout the squad. Austin FC maintained 60% possession in the second half, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Newcomer, Corey Baird, opened his LAFC account in the 61st minute, when his shot from outside the box deflected off a defender, and into the net. While the one goal would have been enough for the three points, LA wanted to put emphasis on the win. Mahala Opoku bulldozed his way through the defense in the 90th minute, sliding a pass to Jose Cifuentes, who had a clear tap in for the finish. Cifuentes capped off his incredible day with the easiest goal he’ll likely ever score, sealing the three points for LAFC.
— LAFC (@LAFC) April 17, 2021
Sisniega With The Sauce
The story of the match was easily how well Pablo Sisniega played. In the past, the biggest complaint was Los Angeles lacked a keeper who won games, more than lost them. However, today’s clean sheet was the product of a stellar performance from the 25-year-old. Finishing the night with three saves, it was the final one that really wowed the crowd. The added time save was an impressive stop with his toes, using his foot to keep the clean sheet. It was a moment that solidified his day, and helped ease doubts about his ability as a number one goalkeeper.
Miscommunication All Around
In typical opening day fashion, there was a lot of miscommunication within the team. In addition to the players on the field struggling, Head Coach Bob Bradley had a brief, almost costly, misunderstanding with striker Carlos Vela. In just the 22nd minute, Vela came off the pitch with what appeared to be a knock, and was promptly subbed out of the match. At which point it was visibly clear, the Mexican striker had no intentions of coming off.
After the match Bradley discussed the moment saying, “Maybe I jumped the gun. When he first came off, he gave me an indication. Then he came over, almost like he wanted to try.” While he did take full responsibility, he did indicate there could be an issue, “We still need to get to the bottom of it. There might be just a little knot in there.”
Baird on the Board
Corey Baird opened up his LAFC account in dramatic fashion. A shot from outside the box, deflected off the defender, and into the bottom corner for the late lead. While the forward from RSL is still getting familiar with his new teammates, he did well to overcome early adversity of a Vela departure, and a Rossi scratch prior to the match. Speaking to the media, he reflected on his great debut. “It was awesome. Getting out in front of the fans, getting my debut, getting my goal, getting our first win of the season, can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Last Word
While the start of the match was lethargic, sluggish, and all-around bad for LAFC, they did what they always have done. They readjusted, focused, and came out the second half, playing their style of football. Their experience and patience really helped them overcome a feisty Austin FC side. This team will, in all likelihood, only get better. If Pablo Sisniega has a season on par with today’s performance, this will be a tough side to beat. Perhaps even tougher than their 2019 selves.