25.02.2024 05:06 h

Lloris and LAFC off to winning start

Former France captain Hugo Lloris enjoyed victory on his Major League Soccer debut as Los Angeles FC defeated the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in their opening game of the season on Saturday.

France's 2018 World Cup winner Lloris made a key early save as the 2022 MLS Cup winners triumphed in a rematch of last year's Western Conference semi-finals.

Lloris, who moved to Los Angeles from Tottenham in December, was brought into action in just the third minute, producing a fine reflex save to deny Jordan Morris.

French-born Gabon international Denis Bouanga, the league's top scorer last season, was a constant threat to Seattle defenders, seeing a shot cleared off the line and then hitting the bar with a deflected effort.

But Los Angeles got in front on the stroke of half-time when Mexican Omar Campos got to the byline and whipped in a cross that was expertly volleyed home by Timothy Tillman.

Polish midfielder Mateusz Bogusz doubled the lead with a super strike into the top corner from the edge of the box on 55 minutes.

The Sounders gave themselves a lifeline when Morris was ruled, after a VAR review, to have been brought down by Aaron Long. Argentine Pedro de la Vega, who had made his debut as a substitute just five minutes earlier, confidently slotted home the spot kick.

LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said Lloris had clearly added his qualities and experience to the team, which lost Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini to retirement in the off-season.

"He's just kind of a steady rock for us, a sense of security. All the players feel it when he's there, which is very important. His decision-making is going to make us a lot better and then he's also somebody who can come up with a big save," said the former US international.

Lloris, who rarely featured in his last year at Tottenham, said he was still finding his feet.

"We are still in the process of getting to know each other. But I feel good," he said.

"I know that physically I am not 100% yet and I need to get the rhythm of competition because it has been 10 months now.

Elsewhere on Saturday, reigning MLS champions Columbus Crew made a positive start to their title defence with a 1-0 win over Atlanta United.

French coach Wilfried Nancy led the Crew to an MLS Cup triumph over LAFC in December and has kept his squad largely intact as it seeks a third title in five years.

Hernandez fired the Crew ahead in the 27th minute after Diego Rossi got behind the Atlanta defence and fired over a low cross, which the striker buried with a right-foot drive.

Former Aston Villa manager Dean Smith earned three points from his first match in charge of Charlotte thanks to a 1-0 win over New York City FC.

Adilson Malanda nodded in the eighth-minute goal after Iuri Tavares's glancing header from a corner had come down off the bar and although Kerwin Vargas missed a second-half penalty, Smith's side held on for the win.

Belgian Christian Benteke, the former Liverpool striker, scored a hat trick for D.C. United in a 3-1 victory over the New England Revolution.

The Chicago Fire were poised for a surprise victory at Eastern Conference powerhouse Philadelphia before a stoppage-time header from Hungarian Daniel Gazdag earned the Union a 2-2 draw.

A beautiful strike from outside the box from Brian Gutierrez had put Chicago ahead in the 39th minute.

Mikael Uhre brought the Union level but Fabian Herbers's close-range effort looked to have grabbed the win for Chicago before Gazdag headed in Jose Martinez's cross near the death.

Dante Sealy grabbed a stoppage-time winner as FC Dallas beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 while Minnesota United pulled off a surprise 2-1 win at Austin.

Minnesota are expected to announce Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as their new head coach next week to replace interim Cameron Knowles.

The Houston Dynamo, last year's US Open Cup winners, were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Sporting Kansas City.