That would have produced a euphoric moment where anticipation among the league-record standalone crowd of 74,749 fans erupted into rapturous celebrations.
But LA homegrown midfielder Efrain Alvarez had other plans, rifling a golazo past goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina in the 77th minute, one that’ll surely be in AT&T Goal of the Year conversations come October.
The 19-year-old Mexican international, upon delivering a stunning blow, wheeled away in celebration with his finger brought to his lips, hushing the Carolina Blue-filled crowd.
“I just felt like silencing everyone,” Alvarez said. “It was something from our group that we wanted to shut down their party and we did.”
Alvarez had subbed on in the 70th minute, his long-range blast giving LA two wins to start the 2022 campaign. It was his fourth career MLS strike, a moment that reinforced why he’s such an alluring prospect.
“He's a super talented player,” head coach Greg Vanney remarked. “There's no question his left foot is like a magician's wand.”
As much as LA cherished the result, they also showered praise on the environment they encountered in the Queen City. The sights and sounds especially resonated with veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who shared a special postgame jersey swap with Charlotte rookie midfielder Chris Hegardt.
“Tonight was pretty special,” the 36-year-old noted. “I saw on Twitter today that five years ago to the day was Atlanta United's debut and I played in that game with New York Red Bulls. That was special, but this was even better. This was a pretty spectacular environment.
“I walked around the city today for just a couple blocks outside the hotel to grab a coffee around 2:30, 3:00 and it was buzzing. Everybody was wearing jerseys. It was the talk of the town.”
Charlotte are MLS’ 28th team, an expansion side that’s finding their footing. Going up against the Galaxy, with their league-leading five MLS Cups, was always going to pose a challenge. Especially when considering their group features stars like Douglas Costa and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, respective Brazilian and Mexican internationals, in contrast to a roster that’s still coming together.
The complexion of the cross-conference match suited LA, despite how a storybook ending would’ve looked.
“Our job tonight was to come here and be the spoilers of the whole thing,” Vanney said. “So I'm happy for that, but I'm also happy for the league and for this city and for the fans here, that they have a team they can support now.
“Hopefully they can continue the momentum and keep the stadium as full as possible every time they play. It's fun to watch this league continue to grow and evolve and new teams come in. It makes it exciting. Every year you get to go to a new city and play in front of another crowd in another place.”
Vanney, part of the inaugural 1996 MLS season as a player, hopes nights like this keep coming. St. Louis CITY SC will join next year as team No. 29 as the game continues to grow by leaps and bounds across the United States and Canada.
"On the field, off the field, in the stands, the new clubs that are coming in, the fanbases that they have before they even play one game and the ticket sales and the season ticket holders, all that stuff just shows how the league continues to grow, how it's getting engrained and entrenched in the culture of North America," Vanney said.
But for one night, Alvarez's stunner stole at least a big part of the show.
"This is going to be like Goal of the Year," Kljestan offered in praise. " … That goal was fantastic and world-class."