221020 Bouanga goal

Forward Dénis Bouanga commits long-term to a relationship that has produced a bounty of individual and team accolades

When a club identifies a player it believes will be a star, signing him can prove challenging. Once he is acquired, watching him succeed is not a given; and if he does flourish, making sure he stays in that club’s jersey, long-term, is even rarer.

In this three-step process, LAFC has scored a hat trick with Denis Bouanga, the 29-year-old goal machine who has achieved four actual hat tricks within the last year, and on Friday agreed on a contract extension that will keep him in Los Angeles through 2027 with a club option for 2028.

Plucked from tradition-rich French club AS St Étienne in 2022, Bouanga has scored 41 goals and added 16 assists across all competitions for the Black & Gold over the last two years. He was an MLS All Star in 2023, and has won two Golden Boot awards – as the top goal scorer in the ’23 MLS regular season and Concacaf Champions Cup. He was named best XI in those two competitions, and finished second in last year’s MLS MVP voting. He tied an MLS record with 38 goals across all competitions in 2023.

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But he doesn’t just score. The 29-year-old winger rises to meet the biggest moments. His first goal in an LAFC shirt came in stoppage time of the last game of the 2022 regular season, when he slotted home a transition chance against Portland that clinched the Supporters’ Shield trophy (awarded to the MLS club with the most regular-season points). He netted two more goals in a playoff knockout match against the Galaxy, and coolly converted his penalty kick in the decisive shootout that gave LAFC its first MLS Cup.

Bouanga entered 2023 as if shot out of a cannon, accounting for 21 goals (16 goals and five assists) over his first 17 appearances. After a scintillating regular season he once again found another level in the playoffs. Against rival club Seattle Sounders FC in the Western Conference semifinal, Bouanga accelerated away from a herd of defenders and rifled a shot over the shoulder of Seattle goalie Stefan Frei to score the only goal in one of the most exciting matches of the 2023 MLS postseason, as LAFC ended the Sounders’ streak of 19 straight home playoff games without a loss.

LAFC has become known in its seven-year history for adding players from overseas, fostering their development, then supporting their pursuit of other opportunities. This moment is different, Co-President and General Manager John Thorrington said this week. “We are excited to see one of the best players in the league make this long-term commitment to LAFC and continue our commitment to winning championships in Los Angeles.”

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT DENIS BOUANGA:

“The most lethal open-field goalscorer in MLS history … ”
- Matthew Doyle, mlssoccer.com

“He’s your prototypical modern footballer. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got strength, he’s got uncanny technical ability, he’s got an uncanny nose for the goal. He’s Thierry Henry-like.”
- Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni 

“[a] physical beast opponents have been forced to confront”
- Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times

“I had that goal that [Bouanga] scored up on my computer all through the holiday season ... Bouanga made us pay.”
- Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer

“He is a special player, and one I think we’re going to be talking about for years to come.”
- Taylor Twellman, Apple TV

“[a] multi-million-dollar player [with] pace, grace and confidence in abundance.”
- MLS National Writer Chares Boehm 

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