CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – The Galaxy shuts down Charlotte on the road at Bank of America Stadium. 74,479 people in Charlotte packed the stands at Bank of America Stadium to celebrate and watch the home debut of expansion side Charlotte FC on Saturday night.
And on the most important day for soccer in the Carolina’s, the biggest crowd in MLS history was in attendance to watch Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez score what could be the goal of the MLS season and secure a 1-0 Los Angeles win.
The assembled crowd of 74,479 is the largest soccer crowd on the planet this weekend! pic.twitter.com/Kxuz0tUcPj
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) March 6, 2022
Galaxy shuts down Charlotte with a 1-0 win
After a choppy 70 minutes in which they were dominant, but could not find the goal, the 19-year-old’s introduction changed the game for the Galaxy. Alvarez would step up to make sure he sent the crowd home, perhaps unhappy, but definitely with something to talk about with his left-footed blast.
“I wanted to shut down their party, and we did,” Alvarez confessed as he explained a goal celebration that included putting his finger to his lips in the famous “shushing” gesture. His breathtaking goal made sure everyone in attendance complied with his order. He claimed he was just happy to help the team after making his second substitute appearance of the season.
“As a player, along with the rest of my teammates [coming off the bench], we always try to come and give the team a little bit of a push. Something that’s missing. Obviously, the players from the bench could see a little bit more what’s missing, so from my perspective, I just try to go on and do my stuff. I try to help the team the most I can and thank God the past two games I’ve been able to [contribute],” Alvarez confessed.
His game-winning goal helped make sure that Los Angeles improves to 2-0 to start the season, with a key stat that is sure to make Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney happy; the second shutout in as many games.
The defense stands strong
SEGA ‼️ pic.twitter.com/Ronrb6gec3
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 6, 2022
Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond tallied three saves while registering his second consecutive shutout in the win, and center back pairing Séga Coulibaly and Nick DePuy were composed and steady for most of the game.
“More than anything, they’ve taken the pride in the shutouts,” Vanney said of the defensive effort from his club. “And, I think, we have such a, in some ways, an attack heavy group of players and a team in some ways, that, when those guys are also taking pride in the team getting a shutout and helping to support the back line and the goalkeeper and the midfielders and everything else, then like I said before, we’re going to be a good team.”
Vanney has already spoken heavily of the disappointment of missing the playoffs last season and pointed to the Galaxy’s deficiencies at the back as the reason for doing so.
He professed himself happy with the shutout win, saying he’d take be content to take 34 shutouts this season, and stressed that this is what the Galaxy will judge success on this campaign.
Efra and his impact
Along with an attack that he insists will come alive as players get fitter and gain an understanding, Vanney claims the pieces will come together.
But as they do, the Galaxy can consider themselves fortunate to have Alvarez as an option off the bench.
The Mexican National Team International immediately made an impact for the Galaxy by stretching the field with his composure on the ball and his ability to get into space. His lovely no-look weighted cross for Chicharito at the back post just moments after he came on should’ve been Charlotte’s first warning.
It would only take Alvarez eight more minutes on the field to settle the game and take all three points for the Galaxy.
He would collect a pass from Raheem Edwards on the left channel and take the ball in stride. After a few paces, sensing that no one from Charlotte FC had stepped up to close him down, he struck a curling left-footed shot that kissed the upper crossbar and settled into the left side of the net.
EFRAÍN ÁLVAREZ STUNS THIS CROWD pic.twitter.com/q0W2X8ukXs
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 6, 2022
His moment of magic understandably earned him praise from his manager.
“He’s a super talented player. There’s no question. And his left foot is like a magician’s wand. He’s clever. He got into good spots,” Vanney said of the Galaxy Homegrown player. “His vision and his awareness, his eye for the pass… and on that particular situation, it was almost like a pass, cross, shot. He just kind of picked out the corner and floated it in there beautifully.”
As the player Zlatan Ibrahimović once called the “best in MLS,” looks to claim his spot in the Galaxy starting 11, performances like Saturday’s will force Vanney to give him the keys to L.A.’s attack sooner rather than later.
Los Angeles will now look to prove themselves and improve to 3-0 on the season. Next Saturday, they will face against Western Conference rivals Seattle Sounders FC. The game will take place at Lumen Field at 3:30 p.m. ET.