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Chiellini, Bale get LAFC home debuts in 2-1 win over Seattle

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kwadwo Opoku and Carlos Vela scored in the first half as Los Angeles beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 on Friday night in the home debut of European superstars Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale.

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Major League Soccer-leading LAFC (15-4-3) picked up their season-best fourth straight win and seven points clear of Austin at the top of the Western Conference during the longest winning streak since 2019. LAFC is also six points ahead of Philadelphia in the race. for the fans’ shield.

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“It was important to stay at the top of the league, to send a signal to us and other teams that we will continue to win,” Chiellini said. “There’s a winning mentality growing in this team.”

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Seattle scored an early LAFC own goal but still fell to 0–5–1 at Bank of California Stadium in the regular season. The Sounders won the 2019 Western Conference Finals here, and the new LAFC stars are already aware of the importance of beating perennial MLS rivals.

“I understand that, next to Galaxy, Seattle is probably the most important team in MLS, so we knew it was going to be difficult,” Chiellini said.

Chiellini started and played 71 minutes on his home debut, with Bale coming on as a substitute 63 minutes into both players’ third game overall for their new club. The duo’s move to the LAFC this summer turned a team that was already top of the MLS table into a potential powerhouse for the final three months of the season.

Bale, who scored his first MLS goal in Kansas City last week, received several standing ovations from the buoyant crowd. Chiellini also received loud applause when he checked out.

“He’s constantly working to get game minutes and get back in shape,” LAFC coach Steve Cerundolo said of Bale. “This is the third week of preseason for him. It will get sharper, faster, better.”

Chiellini and the LAFC were cheered from the front row by Ángel Di Maria and several other players from Juventus, the club where Chiellini has worked for the past 17 seasons. Juve are in Los Angeles on their US summer tour, where they will face Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. Bale also visited his former teammates for their training session in Los Angeles earlier this week.

“I had a lot of friends here and they really enjoyed it,” Chiellini said. “I’m glad they now know why I chose this club. I think I can show Europe and the world how this club is growing.”

Seattle took the lead in the 14th minute when Christian Roldan forced a pass and made a hissing cross into the box, where Jesús Murillo slipped an own goal.

LAFC appeared to score in the 27th minute thanks to Vela’s powerful shot, but the goal was disallowed when video review showed Vela using his hand to catch the ball.

Opoku did equalize eight minutes later with an impressive shot, striking between the two Saunders and past a diving Stefan Frey. The 21-year-old striker from Ghana, better known as Mahala, is finding his place in the MLS by scoring five goals this season.

Vela scored in the 43rd minute when he slipped to deflect a José Cifuentes cross past Frey at close range.


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