Los Angeles Football Club concluded its participation in the Coachella Valley Invitational on Sunday afternoon with an impressive 3-1 result against Chicago Fire FC, in Indio, California. The Black & Gold started the same eleven players it put on the field against STL City SC four days earlier, the only exception being newcomer Tomás Ángel, who started at center forward in place of Nathan Ordaz.
Reigning MLS Golden Boot winner Dénis Bouanga and Cristian Olivera started on the left and right wings, respectively, with Olivera wearing his new jersey number: 13. The midfield consisted of 2023 mainstays Mateusz Bogusz, Timmy Tillman and Ilie Sánchez, while the back line was manned by Ryan Hollingshead (right back), center backs Jesús Murillo, Aaron Long, and left back Omar Campos – who continues to stake his claim as the replacement for four-year starter Diego Palacios. (Palacios recently signed with Brazilian first-division club Corinthians.)
Veteran goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, recently arrived from the English Premier League, made his second start following his debut for his new club on Wednesday.
Bouanga and Olivera each had chances on goal within the first eight minutes, but it was Chicago who opened the scoring when forward Fabian Herbers headed a cross past Lloris in the 21st minute.
The Black & Gold answered 20 minutes later when Ángel, the Colombian striker who joined LAFC just two weeks ago, executed a nifty one-two exchange with Bouanga atop the 18-yard box which Bouanga finished into the lower right corner of the goal to tie the score at one.
“What you saw from [Ángel] was his ability to combine, to come underneath, his work rate,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said of the 21-year-old after the game. “What you didn’t see today is his finishing ability. He’s quite good in front of goal. That’s the next step for him— to get him those opportunities.”
LAFC came out firing in the second half, with Olivera barely missing on two chances in the opening minutes. The young Uruguayan would be redeemed, however, following a beautiful sequence in which LAFC put together a 15-pass build-up whose last two touches were a looping pass from Bouanga and a headed finish by Olivera at the 62-minute mark.
Every LAFC player touched the ball during that sequence except Ordaz, who had just come on to replace Ángel. Ordaz, the homegrown academy product from the San Fernando Valley, got his chance eight minutes later thanks to another beautiful bit of football that began when Sánchez tracked back to win possession in LAFC’s half. Campos, the new left back from Liga MX club Santos Laguna and the Mexico National Team, took off on an overlapping sprint along the left sideline, receiving a pass from Olivera and cutting it back for Ordaz, who finished it with a single touch to complete the day’s scoring and earn his second goal of the preseason.
LAFC starters played for about an hour on Wednesday, and that was the general idea on Sunday as well. Defenders Eddie Segura and Sergi Palencia replaced Murillo and Hollingshead about 60 minutes into the match. Lloris played the entire 90 minutes after going just 45 against St. Louis, as the 2018 World Cup champion continues to acclimate himself to Major League Soccer’s rhythms.
One player who did not appear for LAFC was Eduard Atuesta, who starred for the club between 2018 and 2021 and was re-signed last week following a successful two-year stint in Brazil. The addition of Atuesta, Cherundolo said, gives the club a plethora of options in the way it arranges its talented midfielders. “That’s the key for us is we’ll have many different looks and different ways to play teams,” Cherundolo said. “[Atuesta] is another way for us to break them down and manage the other teams’ strengths.”
LAFC will return to Los Angeles this week and resume training in preparations for its season opener on February 24 at BMO Stadium against Seattle Sounders FC. The club’s final preseason game is scheduled for Saturday, February 17, against Toronto FC.