38-year-old Giorgio Chiellini becomes the oldest player to score his first-ever MLS goal as the defending champion LAFC hold off a second-half charge from Portland to clinch a 3-2 win to kickstart its title defense
- The Euro 2020 winner scored a tap-in from a Kellyn Acosta cross in the first-half
- Retired Welsh forward Gareth Bale held the MLS Cup in LAFC’s pre-match rituals
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Giorgio Chiellini has become the oldest player to score his first-ever MLS goal at 38-years-old, as the league’s defending champions LAFC held off a second-half charge from the Portland Timbers to clinch a 3-2 win in its attempt to defend its title.
The Euro 2020 winner scored a tap-in from a Kellyn Acosta cross after the Timbers failed to deal with a corner in the 24th minute of Saturday’s game at BMO Stadium – home of LAFC.
Retired Welsh forward Gareth Bale and injured goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau carried the MLS Cup onto the field in LAFC’s pre-match rituals, which the California-based club won four months ago.
The Black and Gold also had a goal by right-back Ryan Hollingshead taken off the board moments later by a head-scratching foul call.
Ex-Arsenal and Mexican international Carlos Vela, who had 12 goals and 11 assists in 35 games last season, scored from the spot in the 34th minute to give LAFC a 2-0 lead going into half-time after right-winger Kwadwo Opoku was fouled in the box.
LAFC’s Giorgio Chiellini scored a tap-in as his first-ever MLS goal in the first half vs. Portland
Chiellini, who’s in his second MLS season, celebrated his first goal for LAFC with teammates
Carlos Vela, who had 12 goals in 35 matches last season, coolly converted a first-half penalty
Opoku, 21, added a third seven minutes after the break (52′), in what seemed to be a one-sided affair, as he scored a low drive into the right-hand corner from inside the box on a counter attack.
Evander, the 24-year-old Brazilian midfielder who joined Portland in December from Midtjylland, pulled one back for the Timbers in the 62nd minute, off a four vs. four counter attack.
Portland midfielder, Christian Paredes, also 24, then scored in the 84th minute when John McCarthy, LAFC’s MLS Cup MVP goalkeeper, ventured too far from his own net while defending a corner.
The Paraguayan’s late goal provided a nervy finish to the West Coast rivalry, with LAFC looking to hold on to all three points after benching some of its stars midway through the second-half in what was their first game of the season.
The Black and Gold rested Vela – the team’s top scorer over the last two seasons – and Spanish star Ilie Sánchez in the 65th minute.
Saturday’s win was the first-of-five in 15 days for LAFC, including two CONCACAF Champions League games.
LAFC’s scheduled season opener at the Rose Bowl against the LA Galaxy last week was postponed by severe rainstorms. Portland beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0 in its opener on February 27th.
LAFC improved to 6-0-0 in season openers, matching Dallas as the only MLS clubs to achieve that feat in their first six openers. Los Angeles also became only the second defending MLS Cup champion to win its opener in the past seven years.
Brazilian midfielder Evander, 24, also scored his first MLS goal in the 3-2 loss for the Timbers
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