Dénis Bouanga brace! LAFC's Golden Boot winner finds "phenomenal" gear


Dénis Bouanga is finally off the mark in 2024.

Last season’s MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi winner scored his first two goals of the season on Saturday, leading LAFC back to winning ways in a 5-0 rout of Nashville SC. Having failed to score in over 300 minutes, the reigning Western Conference champions provided a resounding response to their early-season doubters while emphatically ending the second-longest scoring drought in club history.

It didn’t take long for the Black & Gold to hit the back of the net, as Timothy Tillman tapped in following a corner kick (9’). The US international drew a penalty less than 10 minutes later, allowing Bouanga to open his 2024 account. Cue the front-flip celebration.

“It actually motivates me even more not to have scored for so long,” said Bouanga, who scored 38 goals across all competitions in 2023. “That motivation is big.”

Relentless Bouanga

LAFC didn’t let up as the second half began. Following buildup down the right flank, Sergi Palencia spotted Eduard Atuesta unmarked running toward the penalty spot. Rather than taking the shot himself, Atuesta let the pass run through for Bouanga to power home (48’).

If this was last season, Bouanga hitting the woodwork more than any other player in the league across his first five matches would’ve been attributed to his overthinking in the final third rather than playing instinctually. This season it’s “just the opposite,” according to LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo as Bouanga, “needs to think more and react less.”

“Yes, he is an instinctual player and some players have that element of surprise [and] creativity,” Cherundolo continued. “But Dénis needs to stay within our structure and he did that and he was fantastic tonight.”

The brace marked Bouanga’s sixth multi-goal game in his LAFC career, tying now-Columbus Crew forward Diego Rossi for the most in club history.

"His overall effort, his decision-making with the ball, when to pass, when to dribble and shoot himself – it was phenomenal," Cherundolo said. "His effort was there and I think you saw it – very aggressive player, a player that the league got to know, fear and respect, and that’s what we saw here tonight."

Following a straight red card to Joe Willis for handling the ball outside of his box (62’), Cristian Olivera (75’) and Atuesta (90+6’) put the cherries on top of LAFC’s sundae with their first goals of the season. David Martínez, the 18-year-old Venezuelan international winger acquired this offseason, bagged his first MLS goal contribution with an assist as well.

The upshot was LAFC handing Nashville their biggest loss in club history behind a vintage team performance.

“We don't really need to talk about scoring goals and creating chances. That is something that is in our DNA. It is something we do every day in training and that [goalscoring] comes when your defensive organization is proper and disciplined and organized.” Cherundolo analyzed. “That [defensive organization] usually takes care of the offensive work when you recover the ball, and that's what I saw today.”

Giroud to LAFC?

In the months ahead, LAFC could further add to their attacking firepower as reports have surfaced of interest in France's all-time leading goalscorer, Olivier Giroud. Currently playing for AC Milan, he has 12 goals and eight assists this season in Italy’s Serie A.

For a team needing a true No. 9 and with DP flexibility, LAFC could be the perfect landing spot for Giroud to team up with longtime international teammate Hugo Lloris. The veteran goalkeeper, of course, joined LAFC this winter from Premier League powerhouse Tottenham Hotspur

“Any player of that caliber will help any team and he's obviously proven a lot in his career,” Cherundolo commented about Giroud, noting his inability to discuss specifics of transfer rumors. “He's a true reference, a true nine, and certainly the position of a player we're looking for."

Before Matchday 6, the potential acquisition of a DP striker seemed a necessity for an LAFC team without a goal in more than three matches. Ninety minutes later, LAFC are back to winning ways in hot goalscoring form, led by their reigning Golden Boot winner.

“Very rarely do things work out in the games that we work on during the week, but this week was one of them,” Cherundolo said. “It's exactly what we worked on.”