LAFC survived the first-half substitution of Carlos Vela to spoil Austin FC's MLS debut with a 2-0 victory over the expansion side at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.

After a scoreless first half, it was Corey Baird who found the decisive goal for LAFC with a deflected finish just past the hour mark, while Jose Cifuentes added the insurance with a late tap-in to pace the hosts.

LAFC were dealt an early blow when Vela was subbed off in the 22nd minute after appearing to tweak his knee while lunging for a cross from Corey Baird. The superstar attacker received treatment from the training staff on the sideline before getting replaced by Kwadwo Opoku, but appeared to contend following his substitution that he was fit to remain in the match.

Sans Vela, LAFC were on the front foot early in the second half after the scoreless opening frame, narrowly missing a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 53rd minute when center back Eddie Segura saw his header off a corner kick glance off the crossbar.

Baird then got the hosts the game's first goal, unleashing a shot from outside the area in the 61st minute that took a wicked deflection before slotting past Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver and into the net.

Austin applied some pressure late and nearly equalized just before the final whistle, when Jon Gallagher got free on a breakaway down the right side and got a clean shot off on goal. But LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega denied the attempt with a reaction save at the near post.

Cifuentes then slammed the door just at the start of second-half stoppage time, tapping home a feed from Opoku after a miscue at the back sparked a quick LAFC counterattack, sealing off the 2-0 final.

Goals

  • 61' - LAFC - Corey Baird | WATCH
  • 90'+1 - LAFC - Jose Cifuentes | WATCH

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Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: It was a professional performance from LAFC to bare down and take all three points despite playing most of the match without Vela, and all of it without Uruguayan standout Diego Rossi, who was held out with a minor hamstring injury. Credit to Austin, though, for giving one of the league's top teams a highly competitive game on a historic day for the club. It wasn't the result they wanted, but there looks to be plenty to build on for head coach Josh Wolff and Co.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The Vela substitution fiasco dominated much of the conversation on social media throughout the match, and you probably won't see another sequence quite like it all season.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Corey Baird gets the nod for this one, as the former Real Salt Lake man got off the mark in his first match with his new club with a crucial game-winning goal.

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