Chiellini, LAFC beat Timbers 3-2 after raising title banners
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Giorgio Chiellini scored his first MLS goal, and Los Angeles FC opened its defense of the MLS title with a 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday.
Carlos Vela and Mahala Opoku also scored after LAFC unveiled its title banners and handed out championship rings during a lively pregame ceremony at its sold-out stadium. Retired Welsh forward Gareth Bale and injured goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau carried the MLS Cup onto the field where they won it four months ago.
Evander scored his first MLS goal for Portland, and Cristhian Paredes added a late score in the Timbers' third straight loss to LAFC.
LAFC improved to 6-0-0 in season openers, matching Dallas as the only MLS clubs to achieve that feat in their first six openers. Los Angeles also became only the second defending MLS Cup champion to win its opener in the past seven years.
Banners celebrating LAFC's two Supporters' Shield titles and its 2022 Western Conference and MLS Cup championships were unveiled above the east stands at BMO Stadium during the pregame festivities.
Chiellini then got his second MLS season off to a strong start after appearing in 11 matches last year as a midseason arrival from Juventus. Along with a strong defensive performance, the 38-year-old Italian great opened the scoring in the 24th minute with his first stateside goal when he banged home a loose ball in the box from Kellyn Acosta's cross.
LAFC had a goal by Ryan Hollingshead taken off the board moments later by a head-scratching foul call, but Vela coolly converted a penalty in the 34th minute after Opoku was fouled in the box. Opoku then ripped a goal past David Bingham in the 52nd minute for a 3-0 lead.
Evander, the Brazilian midfielder who joined Portland in December from Midtjylland, got the Timbers on the board in the second half. Paredes then scored in the 84th minute when John McCarthy, LAFC's MLS Cup MVP goalkeeper, ventured too far from his own net while defending a corner.
LAFC rested Vela and Spanish star Ilie Sánchez in the 65th minute. This match was the first of five in 15 days for LAFC, including two CONCACAF Champions League games.
LAFC’s scheduled season opener at the Rose Bowl against the LA Galaxy last week was postponed by severe rainstorms. Portland beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0 in its opener last week.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press