Bob Bradley says LAFC ‘only going to get better’ after club’s first win
SEATTLE — Twenty years after he first became a head coach in MLS and led an expansion team to victory on the road, Bob Bradley pulled it off again as LAFC beat the 2016 MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders 1-0.
It was a memorable debut for MLS newcomer LAFC and following the match Bradley, who won his first match as coach of the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998, promised things would only get better.
“It’s a great win,” Bradley said with a grin. “The first 25 minutes the football was actually pretty good. After that it was more about fighting and defending. But when you’re starting out as a team, you have to learn how to win different types of games. A lot of guys gave big efforts.
“We talked today that you only get one chance for [a first impression], so you’ve got to show what you’re all about. I don’t think we showed, football-wise, what we’re capable of, but that’s only going to get better. I’m confident that as we build this team, that we’re going to see some real football.
“Whenever you go into a new situation, you want to start in a strong, positive way. I remember a long time ago with Chicago, I can probably tell you first games in every place I’ve been.”
Diego Rossi scored in the 11th minute from a nifty Carlos Vela pass, and LAFC weathered the Sounders storm — and rainy conditions in Seattle — to hold on for the win.
The league’s 23rd franchise got off to a sterling start in Bradley’s first match coaching in MLS since 2006. Rossi, who turns 20 on Monday, showed his scoring skill by one-timing the pass from Vela 20 yards from goal and curling a shot past Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. It was a stunning strike, topped only by LAFC playing the final 79 minutes without giving up an equalizer.
Tyler Miller, a former backup goalkeeper in Seattle and Los Angeles’ first pick in the expansion draft, made several key stops, including deflections of shots by Nouhou Tolo in the first half and a header by Cristian Roldan midway through the second half that were both bound for the net as Seattle outshot LAFC 22-5.
“It was a funny experience before the game when I was saying hi to everybody,” Miller said. “But for me, I was mentally preparing the entire time. I think everyone saw what I was capable of out there, and it was a great game by the team.”
It will be late April before LAFC gets a chance to play at home, but the club’s owners — including actor Will Ferrell — were on hand for the opener, along with 500 or so black-and-gold-clad fans in the upper corner of CenturyLink Field. They were cheering almost from the outset as Latif Blessing nearly scored on a header 65 seconds into the match.
Just 10 minutes later, Vela and Rossi linked up for the first of what will likely be many goals. LAFC became the fifth expansion team to win its debut and first since Vancouver in 2011.
“We were looking forward to this game for a long time,” Rossi said. “We enjoyed it, but on Tuesday, we’re going to get ready for the next game. We’re doing very well. Everyone is new, but we got along very well from the beginning.”
Seattle significantly altered its lineup while trying to manage playing three games in seven days at the outset of the season. The Sounders played Santa Tecla in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 last Thursday and will host Liga MX club Chivas in a CCL quarterfinals first-leg match on Wednesday.
Those roster decisions meant Clint Dempsey was a spectator for the opener and wasn’t even listed among Seattle’s subs. Starting center-back Chad Marshall was on the bench as well.
“There were some choices with rest. There were some choices with injury concerns,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Seattle had a pair of first-half scoring chances denied by sprawling efforts. Miller made a diving one-handed save to deflect Tolo’s shot wide of the net moments after Rossi’s opening goal. Later in the half, Will Bruin’s header back across the box found Harry Shipp wide open, but his shot to an open net was blocked over the crossbar by Laurent Ciman’s desperation slide.
Seattle changed formations and used two strikers in the second half. While the Sounders dominated the scoring chances, they failed to find a goal. It’s just the second home loss for Seattle since Schmetzer took over as coach in July 2016.
Seattle played the final minutes of the match with 10 men after Tony Alfaro picked up a second yellow card.
ESPN FC writer Jeff Carlisle contributed to this story.