(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: The late October Fall weather, with a “kick-off” temperature of 68° in our City of the Angels, was just right for the Opening Round of the Major League Soccer (MLS) 2023 playoff match in front of the “sold-out” crowd at BMO Stadium who gathered for the all-important “second” season of MLS play in defense of their 2022 MLS Cup Championship.
Let’s set the table for you on the team profiles. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC came in with a record of (12-10-12) valued at (48) points and a 6th place finish in the Western Conference standings, while the Black & Gold arrived with a (14-10-10) record, good (52) points and a third place finish.
And most importantly, player personnel wise, LAFC appeared front and center with the MLS’ newest Golden Boot Awardee in #99 Dénis Bouanga and the MLS 3 x All-Star, #10 Carlos Vela, making the Black & Gold a highly formidable and dangerous opponent, especially at this time of the year.
[PRE-MATCH]: Playoffs are playoffs and any team reaching them knows the value of playing in a second season within the master season. Anything at anytime can, and will happen, knowing that some teams will breeze through the playoffs, while other may struggle, but at least in this format, the 1st Round of competition, is a “Best 2-out-of-3,” followed by those always painful and subsequent “win or go home” – “one and done” confrontations.
On this night, LAFC came in as the favored team due its finish in the standings and its potent “1-2” knockout punch of #99 and #10, as we just described. Also, for good measure, the Guest Falconer for the match was our current NBA/L.A. Clippers Guard, UCLA Bruin All-American, and future NBA Hall of Famer, Russell Westbrook.
[1st HALF]: From the opening whistle sounded by Referee, Jon Freeman, the match’s pace was off to a good start as both squads were working to probe the other’s actual and perceived weaknesses in contrast to its regular and bonafide capabilities. Then the rhythm changed quickly as “Mr. Momentum” appeared on the pitch in the person of LAFC Defender, #24 Ryan Hollingshead, when he drove home the first score of the match at minute (27:00).
Not too much later, the Whitecaps got onto the BMO scoreboard when they answered with forward, #24 Brian White, who chipped in a nice shot from the center left of the goal, tying the score in minute (30:00), at (1-1).
The Black & Gold crowd, always led in the match by “El Grupo 3252,” was animated, determined, and energized from the start and proceeded to urge and cheer on their team enough for them to score another goal, this time by Guess who? Correct, #99 Dénis Bouanga at the (29:00) minute mark, giving LAFC a (2-1) lead.
But, the same result was quickly and timely duplicated by Vancouver, when they scored their second goal on an excellent corner kick by midfielder, #25 Ryan Gauld, that was followed-up by defender, #24 Samuel Adekgube, rising high to the occasion and punching it in with a superb “header” shot that was nicely angled at 45° away from LAFC’s goalkeeper, Crepeau, minutes before the first period was completed, at the (39:00) minute mark. This goal squared the match at (2-2) as the teams went into their locker rooms.
[Photo Gallery Credit]: Franklin Robles for East L.A. Sports Scene Productions, LLC
[HALF-TIME SCORE]: LAFC 2 Vancouver 2
[2nd HALF]: If there was anything of significance at this point in the match, the explosiveness of LAFC was about to be shown once again, with a repetition of two scoring goals by the same two Black & Gold players, Bouanga and Hollingshead, that quickly grew the lead into double the margin at (4-2).
A fifth and final score came when Black & Gold Defender, #3 Jesús Murillo, got himself into the 2023 MLS playoff record book with a goal of his own right before the end of the match at the (42:00) mark. He scored on a perfect corner kick into the middle of the receiving pack of players, by #19 Mateusz Bogusz, that basically closed the curtain on the match and the BMO crowd of 22,000 roared its triumphant approval in unison towards the team on the pitch.
[FULL-TIME SCORE]: LAFC 5 Vancouver Whitecaps 2
[OF SIGNIFICANCE]: The 2023 MLS Golden Boot Winner, Dénis Bouanga who played masterfully and confidently for the (90:00) minutes of the match, Ryan Hollingshead, the 3252 “Man of the Match,” and El Capitán, Carlos Vela, who had one assist.
[NEXT UP-MATCH #2]: In Vancouver on Sunday, November 5th at 4:30 p.m. PT. That game will be broadcast on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, FS1, FS2 (Spanish), 710 AM and 980 AM. While Game 3, if necessary, will be back at BMO Stadium on Thursday, November 9. The match can be viewed on MLS Season Pass.