LAFC spoil Austin’s MLS debut with 2-0 triumph

Corey Baird’s 61st-minute strike broke a scoreless draw and Jose Cifuentes scored in stoppage time as Los Angeles FC spoiled Austin FC’s Major League Soccer debut with a 2-0 triumph over the Texas outfit.

Cifuentes tapped in a pass from Kwado Opoku to complete the scoring.

Opoku came in as a substitute in the 22nd minute when 2019 MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela was subbed out after taking a knock.

Vela received treatment on the sideline but was irked that LAFC coach Bob Bradley sent someone on in his place, indicating he would have been able to return.

“Yeah, I might’ve jumped the gun,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said in an in-game television interview. “He gave us a sign early on that he needed to come off, I thought, so I can’t say more than maybe it’s my fault.”

LAFC were also without last year’s scoring champion, as Diego Rossi was sidelined with a hamstring injury. But they were able to overcome.

Los Angeles goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega saved three Austin shots for the clean sheet.

Austin keeper Brad Stuver leapt for a save on Diego Palacios in the first minute and turned away a shot by Baird in the 37th.

LAFC’s Eddie Segura put a header off the crossbar early in the second half before Baird — the 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year who landed in LA in a trade with Real Salt Lake — opened the scoring when he collected a pass from Danny Musovski at the top of the area and firing a low shot past the diving Stuver into the top left corner.

Austin, the 10th team to join MLS in the last decade, enjoyed the better of possession over 90 minutes, but they were out-shot 13-7 in the second half.

A smattering of Austin fans were among the limited crowd at Banc of California Stadium, and fans turned out for a watch party in Austin to show support of the fledgling club.

The match was among the highlights of the second day of the 2021 season.

CF Montreal, under the guidance of new coach Wilfried Nancy, opened the season with a 4-2 victory over Canadian rivals Toronto FC.

Eastern Conference rivals Orlando City and Atlanta United battled to a goalless draw in a season opener that left Orlando waiting for word on Alexandre Pato’s status after the Brazilian forward exited in the 80th minute of his MLS debut after coming down awkwardly while avoiding a tackle by Atlanta midfielder Franco Ibarra.

Pato 31, grabbed his right knee but was able to leave the field under his own steam.

“We’re waiting and may God just help us on Pato and he’s not hurt,” Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We’ll wait until the doctors diagnose him.”

Amid an opening weekend slate of 13 matches, defending MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew open their campaign on Sunday hosting the Philadelphia Union, winners of the 2020 Supporters’ Shield as the team with the best regular season.

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