LAFC Closes Preseason Play With Match vs Toronto FC


Los Angeles Football Club concluded its 2024 preseason match schedule with a Saturday afternoon friendly against Toronto FC at the LAFC Performance Center. The 90-minute scrimmage ended in a 1-0 win for LAFC, the lone score coming on an own goal created by a cross from LAFC forward Dénis Bouanga.

More important than the result for LAFC was the match’s heightened intensity, as teammates competed for regular-season minutes while preparing collectively for their first “real” game next weekend. (LAFC opens its 2024 regular season with a 1:30 p.m. home match versus longtime Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders at BMO Stadium.) The ramped-up competition on Saturday reflected two clubs nearing regular-season fitness, physicality, and speed of play.

The Black & Gold started a lineup similar to the lineups they fielded at the Coachella Valley Invitational, with English Premier League legend Hugo Lloris starting again in goal, on the three-week anniversary of his arrival from Europe. The players-and-coaches-only setting allowed Lloris’ vocal communications to his teammates to rise above the din of the football being played, as the former France captain continued to share what he’s learned over 15 years in top-tier European football with his new club. “Si, Muri!” Lloris’ voice boomed. “Go, Mati! Press Press!” 

Lloris did not see a shot of any kind over the friendly’s first twelve minutes. Neither did his counterpart, USMNT veteran Sean Johnson of Toronto. The first half was played almost exclusively between the penalty areas, until LAFC forward Cristian Olivera, starting on the right wing opposite Bouanga, found himself on a breakaway against Johnson in the 25th minute only to watch his shot roll wide.

Another 21-year-old, left back Omar Campos, who joined LAFC in January from Liga MX club Santos Laguna, played all 90 minutes and showed again why he appears to have nailed down the starting spot at a position occupied over the last four years by Black & Gold mainstay Diego “Chiqui” Palacios (now with Corinthians in Brazil’s Serie A). Campos’ foot speed in tracking down Toronto’s attackers and his physical play when in their space were impressive; and he continued to show eagerness in attack, combining on one-twos with his teammates in midfield to advance the ball forward. 

LAFC kept the ball in Toronto’s half for most of the game’s first 45 minutes, with Lloris playing well beyond his 18-yard box.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, with the game still scoreless, Sergi Palencia replaced Ryan Hollingshead at right back for LAFC. Moments later Palencia collaborated in a build-up along the right flank with Bouanga, his former teammate at French club St. Etienne, that resulted in a low, dangerous cross from the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner. Six-foot-six Toronto defender Aime Mabika tried to redirect Bouanga’s whistling pass out of play but instead sent it into Johnson’s net.

The goal appeared to light a fire under LAFC’s attack, as the home side created a half dozen dangerous chances in the minutes that followed. Defender Eddie Segura and forward Nathan Ordaz came on for LAFC to play the final 16 minutes and 10 minutes, respectively. In the 84th minute Lloris made a diving save on the first shot on target he had faced to that point. A Toronto free kick from 20 yards out clanged off the top of LAFC’s crossbar. Another Toronto chance in the run of play created a shot that went just wide.

LAFC responded with a closing flurry that sent three shots at Johnson from within the 18-yard box, fired by Bouanga, midfielder Timmy Tillman, and Olivera. Each was blocked or saved.

At the final whistle, players from both sides came together and exchanged embraces, knowing that the 34-game gamut of the MLS regular season awaited them.

“We really wanted to focus on this one,” LAFC midfielder Timmy Tillman said after his 90-minute shift. “We wanted to go hard. We knew it was the last game [before the season starts] so we just wanted to force ourselves to give it our all. It was an intense game but I think a really good one, and we are happy with the result.”

The Los Angeles Football Club will kick off its seventh season of MLS play on February 24, at 1:30 p.m. PT, when it hosts Seattle Sounders FC at BMO Stadium. The game will be televised on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, and on Fox. _Get tickets_.

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