Seven For Seven

LAFC’s Opening Day Victory Over Seattle Featured A Few New Faces And A Familiar Result


New players, new jerseys, and a reconditioned BMO Stadium took center stage under a bright blue Los Angeles sky on Saturday, as LAFC’s 2024 debut coincided with the renewal of one of Major League Soccer’s most intense rivalries. 

Here are seven conclusions to be drawn from the Black & Gold’s 2-1 win, its seventh straight in a regular-season opener.


Playing in his first MLS game, the 21-year-old Mexican international played a pivotal role in both of LAFC’s goals on Saturday, but not without a bit of hardship first. Campos collided in the air with a Seattle player early in the first half and his limp over the next few minutes was concerning enough to get Sergi Palencia up off the LAFC bench and into his warmup routine. 

Let’s backtrack a bit here – to the offseason departure of club legend Diego Palacios, a four-year starter at right back who dispossessed opponents of the ball a league-best 144 times last year, set the LAFC single-season record with 87 tackles in 2022, then beat it by two in 2023; played more regular-season minutes over the last four seasons than any LAFC player during that time; and assisted on the most important goal in club history.

Since arriving at LAFC less than a month ago, and over five preseason games, Campos has put to rest any concerns about who would fill Palacios’ boots.

By the 45th minute, Campos had recovered from his early knock and took on Seattle’s Obed Vargas one-v-one near the Seattle byline and lofted a left-footed cross reminiscent of his predecessor. Timothy Tillman finished it at the far post, and LAFC had its first goal of 2024.

Campos’ contribution to the second goal was more subtle. With Mateusz Bogusz drifting along the left flank, Campos made an overlapping run on Bogusz’s left shoulder that made the two defenders nearby pay attention to him. Campos’ run bought Bogusz the half-second he needed to cut the ball onto his right foot and send a looping shot off the far post and past Sounders keeper Andrew Thomas.

“Yeah, a great debut,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said of Campos. “It’s exactly what we had hoped for from Omar. He's technically very clean, if not perfect. Offensively, I think he gives us more than we've been used to in the final third, and he has some pace as well. I don't think we saw it tonight but we will.”


Another recent signing, former France and Tottenham Hotspur captain Hugo Lloris, made his MLS debut after 15 years playing in Europe’s highest levels. Two minutes in, one of LAFC’s rare defensive lapses on the day left Lloris staring down 2023 MLS All Star Jordan Morris, with the ball at Morris’ feet. Lloris’ diving save brushed away any early butterflies the 2018 World Cup winner might have felt, and kickstarted a clinical, professional performance in goal. 

“Today the danger for me was not to try to overplay. Just stay in your game, do your job, try to be as much efficient as I could,” Lloris said. “And in the end it worked well.”

In the first half, Lloris played a series of counterattacking long balls that pressured the Sounders’ defense before the game settled into a slower rhythm over the final 45 minutes. “To be honest I was not really happy with my distribution today,” Lloris said. “We worked on a few things in training, but when we were on the field today there was a lot of misunderstanding between us. But its normal, we are still in the process to get to know each other.”

Two months after 62,000 Tottenham supporters stood and applauded their former captain as he told them goodbye, Lloris experienced his new home pitch in all its glory. “The atmosphere in the stadium is just amazing,” he said. “The expectation from the fans creates a lot of motivation for all the players, for everyone at LAFC. And it makes us very ambitious. As you can see, the last few years the club has been very competitive and they want to carry on in the same way. I really wanted to be part of it.”


An air of mystery surrounded the center forward position as the season opener approached, but LAFC had a plan. Attacking midfielder Mateusz “Mati” Bogusz had filled in at the number nine role here and there during the compressed game schedule of 2023. Heading into opening day, something about Seattle’s back four inspired Cherundolo and assistant coach Ante Razov to try him there again.

“Yeah, that was an adjustment last week,” Cherundolo said. “We tried Mati in preseason up high and, yes, he's a midfielder playing as a nine. So the natural instincts and behaviors are to come underneath and to stay underneath and we worked with him, explained that to him and credit to Mati, he accepted the role and really, really played well today as a nine. We saw it all week in training.”

Bogusz’s willingness to dive into the fray, win balls, and play them forward – along with his midseason fitness level and eagerness to press and make runs without the ball – applied pressure to Seattle throughout his 90-minute shift. And when the moment presented itself, Bogusz curled in his 23-footer to give LAFC a 2-0 cushion. Suddenly, a question mark in the starting 11 became an exclamation point, with reinforcements on standby.

“Nathan Ordaz is somebody who gives us a little more verticality,” Cherundolo said. “We didn't see Tommy Ángel tonight, who's a nine as well, [he is] catching up on some fitness from the offseason. We didn't see David Martinez tonight, who's a very talented player, more coming from the flanks, but definitely can play in the middle as well. So we have multiple options. 

“Mati was the right choice for tonight's game ... We’ll regroup, reassess, and then we'll pick who we think the best 11 are to win next week, on the road [against Real Salt Lake, on Saturday, March 2].”


Carlos Vela, the first and most important player in LAFC history, was not on the roster sheet on Saturday as he and his representatives continue working with the club on contract terms for 2024. Aside from an occasional injury, it was the first time Vela had not been available for selection since the 2020 MLS Is Back tournament, when the captain and his wife were focused on the birth of their first child. 

Seattle was playing without a club legend, too – longtime captain Nicolás Lodeiro having departed for Orlando City in the offseason – but no player in MLS is more synonymous with his club than Vela.

Cherundolo, who has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vela and patience for his contract situation during the preseason, even mentioned him in his postgame comments when talking about LAFC’s attack. (“We do tweak things to showcase the qualities of certain players – Mati coming underneath or Carlos coming underneath – [to feature] more of their strengths.”)

“Of course, it was a little weird without Carlos because he's been very, very important for the whole club,” Tillman said. “We have to try working without him right now.”


The last time Eduard Atuesta wore the Black & Gold in an MLS regular-season game, he was LAFC’s captain for an October 2021 derby match against the Galaxy. (Vela was out with a leg injury.) 

Since returning to LAFC two weeks ago on loan from Brazilian first-division club Palmeiras, “El Profe” has worked to regain match fitness while showing glimpses of the form that earned him MLS Best XI and All Star status during his previous stint in LA. Atuesta continued that trend on Saturday, playing 86 productive minutes against the Sounders.

“He has an eye and a feeling for spaces that I haven't seen in a very long time,” Cherundolo said, noting the 26-year-old Colombian’s “ability to float into those spaces, to recognize those spaces, and to exploit [them]. His vision with the ball, and his movement off the ball is something that's going to go a long way for us. We haven't quite captured all of it yet but we will, and it's going to make us a lot better.”

A member of LAFC’s original roster in 2018 and a fan favorite ever since, Atuesta raised his hand a few times during the match to acknowledge the welcome he received from the sellout crowd of more than 22,000 fans. “Oh, amazing, amazing,” Atuesta said. “I feel so good. I feel the love of the people with me and it is unbelievable for me, with my kids there. Matthias, my [oldest son], was two months [old] when we went to Brazil. So for me, it was a big day today.”


Having played in a fierce MLS Cup final just eleven weeks ago, LAFC had the shortest offseason of any other MLS club, except MLS champions Columbus. The shrunken offseason allowed LAFC to train together just 21 times in 2024, compared to the 34 training sessions the 2023 team went through a year ago. The players felt the difference on Saturday. 

“Most important was to get the three points,” Lloris observed. “Obviously as you could see during the game we are still working on our fitness level. We suffered a bit the last twenty minutes, but with the help of the crowd we managed to get the result that we wanted.” 

That result gave LAFC’s its seventh victory in MLS season openers in as many tries, setting a new league record. (FC Dallas won six straight openers between 2012 and 2017.)

“I think you can draw a conclusion that the fans helped push things over the finish line,” Cherundolo said. “Our fans are incredible. They came out again today to support us. Without them, the success LAFC has had over the first seven openers and first six full seasons – it wouldn't have been possible without them.”


Are we ready to see Jesus Murillo as a blonde? Or Lloris, the stoic Frenchman?

Given the performances turned in by Bouanga, Bogusz, and Tillman, each of whom dyed his hair platinum in recent weeks – not to mention the debut of midfielder Ilie Sánchez’s cornrows – one might expect a wave of new hairstyles sweeping the dressing room. 

Even Campos – the brunette newcomer with the bleached tips – finished a close second behind Bogusz in the Man of the Match race. As Campos’ cross, which led to LAFC’s first goal of the season, floated over the goal and into the danger area, Seattle’s rookie goalkeeper and defenders put all their focus on Bouanga, the reigning Golden Boot winner, as he drifted beneath it. The Sounders did not realize until it was too late that another bleached head, Tillman, was in better position to finish.

Lloris, who made no postgame commitment to a change in his coiffure, summed the day up rightly. “First game is always special, no? It doesn’t matter your experience, it doesn’t matter your level, it’s always special, and I could feel it today. 

“I am looking forward to get some progression in my game, and in our game as a team, because I think there is the potential to be much better.”