MLS preseason 2023: Dénis Bouanga powers LAFC, Austin & Charlotte win big

Preseason recap 2.11.23

Twelve teams played preseason friendlies on Saturday, exactly two weeks before the 2023 MLS campaign officially kicks off on Feb. 25.

With MLS is Back just around the corner, clubs are using these final scrimmages to tinker with lineups and formations before the new season.

Austin FC 4, Louisville City FC 1

Austin FC flexed their attacking muscle in a 120-minute scrimmage against Louisville City FC, putting four goals past the USL Championship (second division) side.

Winter signing Gyasi Zardes broke the deadlock for the Verde & Black and was followed on the scoresheet by new offensive partners Sebastián Driussi and Diego Fagúndez. Club captain Alex Ring officially made it a blowout in the 94th minute.


  • 17' - ATX - Gyasi Zardes
  • 24' - ATX - Sebastián Driussi
  • 51' - ATX - Diego Fagúndez
  • 64' - LOU - Joshua Wynder
  • 94' - ATX - Alex Ring


  • ATX starting XI: Brad Stuver - Zan Kolmanic, Leo Väisänen, Julio Cascante, Nick Lima - Dani Pereira, Owen Wolff, Sebastián Driussi - Diego Fagúndez, Emiliano Rigoni, Gyasi Zardes
  • ATX second XI: Matt Bersano - Adam Lundkvist, Amro Tarek, Kipp Keller, Jon Gallagher - Sofiane Djeffal, Alex Ring, Héctor Jiménez - Rodney Redes, Ethan Finlay, Maxi Urruti

LAFC 2, Toronto FC 1

A brace of headers by Dénis Bouanga guided LAFC to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC at the Coachella Valley Invitational.

The Gabon international struck early for the defending MLS Cup champions by nodding home Sean Johnson's clearance after an initial effort was blocked by the USMNT goalkeeper. Toronto responded almost immediately with a long-range beauty from Víctor Vázquez, only for the Spanish midfielder to exit the match before halftime.

Bouanga again demonstrated his aerial prowess during the second half with a perfectly-placed header at the near post that secured the result for the Black & Gold.


  • 3' - LAFC - Dénis Bouanga
  • 6' - TOR - Víctor Vázquez
  • 75' - LAFC - Dénis Bouanga


  • LAFC starting XI: John McCarthy - Diego Palacios, Giorgio Chiellini, Jesús Murillo, Ryan Hollingshead - Ilie Sánchez, Kellyn Acosta, José Cifuentes - Dénis Bouanga, Carlos Vela, Kwadwo Opoku
  • TOR starting XI: Sean Johnson - Raoul Petretta, Sigurd Rosted, Matt Hedges, Richie Laryea, Michael Bradley, Víctor Vázquez, Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi, Jesús Jiménez, Adama Diomande

Charlotte FC 3, Charleston Battery 0

New Designated Player forward Enzo Copetti showed what he's capable of, cooly finishing from close range to open the floodgates after a scoreless first half – all as Charlotte FC defeated USL Championship opponent Charleston Battery in a 3-0 victory.

Ben Bender, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, and Nuno Santos rounded out the scoring for the Crown.

The game was played at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium.


  • 55' - CLT - Enzo Copetti
  • 68' - CLT - Ben Bender
  • 73' - CLT - Nuno Santos


  • CLT starting XI: Pablo Sisniega - Nathan Byrne, Derrick Jones, Jan Sobociński, Harrison Afful, Chris Hegardt, Ashley Westwood, Karol Świderski, Kamil Józwiak, Kerwin Vargas, Enzo Copetti
  • CLT second XI: Pablo Sisniega - Jaylin Lindsey, Jack Neeley, Hamady Diop, Joseph Mora, Brandt Bronico, Ben Bender, Nuno Santos, Vinicius Mello, McKinze Gaines, Andre Shinyashiki

New York Red Bulls 1, Minnesota United FC 0

The New York Red Bulls took a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United FC in a cross-conference exhibition matchup at the Coachella Valley Invitational.

The game-winner was delivered in the first half by midfielder Luquinhas. Tom Barlow provided the assist with a low cross that the Brazilian attacker slotted home at the far post.


  • 1H - RBNY - Luquinhas


  • RBNY starting XI: Carlos Coronel - John Tolkin, Andrés Reyes, Sean Nealis, Kyle Duncan, Cristian Cásseres Jr., Frankie Amaya, Luquinhas, Cameron Harper, Tom Barlow, Elias Manoel
  • MIN starting XI: Dayne St. Clair - Zarek Valentin, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Kemar Lawrence - Wil Trapp, Robin Lod, Kervin Arriaga - Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Luis Amarilla, Franco Fragapane

Chicago Fire FC 0, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 0

After two straight lopsided wins, the Chicago Fire's offense cooled off against USL Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. The result was a scoreless draw that nonetheless kept Ezra Hendrickson's side undefeated (2W-0L-1D) in preseason camp.


  • None


  • CHI starting XI: Chris Brady - Miguel Navarro, Rafael Czichos, Kendall Burks, Justin Reynolds, Jairo Torres, Mauricio Pineda, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabian Herbers, Brian Gutiérrez, Kacper Przybyłko

Houston Dynamo FC 2, CF Montréal 2

CF Montréal came back twice to earn a 2-2 draw with Houston Dynamo FC in Florida.

Few match details were shared by either club, although both CFMTL's goals came in the second half courtesy of Sean Rea and Sunusi Ibrahim – the latter scoring late after a brilliant piece of skill from Mason Toye.


  • HOU
  • MTL - Sean Rea
  • HOU
  • MTL - Sunusi Ibrahim


  • HOU starting XI: Unavailable
  • MTL starting XI: Unavailable

Orlando City SC 2, Colorado Rapids 2

Gastón González and second-half substitute Jack Lynn helped Orlando City SC recover from a two-goal deficit and salvage a 2-2 tie against the Colorado Rapids at Exploria Stadium.

Cole Bassett and Diego Rubio (from the penalty spot) put the Rapids in the driver's seat, but the hosts turned it around late in the second half as both teams shared the spoils.


  • 2H - COL - Cole Bassett
  • 2H - COL - Diego Rubio
  • 70' - ORL - Gastón González
  • 79' - ORL - Jack Lynn


  • ORL starting XI: Pedro Gallese - Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, Michael Halliday, Wilder Cartagena, Iván Angulo, César Aráujo, Mauricio Pereyra, Duncan McGuire, Gastón González, Martín Ojeda
  • COL starting XI: William Yarbrough - Danny Wilson, Lalas Abubakar, Keegan Rosenberry, Steven Beitashour, Jack Price, Connor Ronan, Cole Bassett, Sam Nicholson, Michael Barrios, Diego Rubio

Real Salt Lake 1, Sacramento Republic 1

Club-record signing Andrés Gómez made his preseason debut and RSL settled for a 1-1 draw against USL Championship side Sacramento, getting their lone goal from homegrown defender Delentz Pierre.

The preseason friendly was part of the FC Tucson Desert Showcase in Arizona.


  • 7' - RSL - Delentz Pierre
  • 84' - SAC - Douglas Martínez


  • RSL starting XI: Zac MacMath - Bode Hidalgo, Erik Holt, Keller Storlie, Delentz Pierre - Jasper Loffelsend, Pablo Ruiz, Bertin Jacquesson, Diego Luna - Ilijah Paul, Rubio Rubin