LOS ANGELES: Former Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini scored his first goal in Major League Soccer as defending champions Los Angeles FC survived a late rally from the Portland Timbers to hold on and win their opening game of the season 3-2.
The home side had begun the day in celebratory mood marking their first title win last season with the players given their championship rings and the title banner unveiled but Steve Cherundolo’s squad quickly got down to business.
The 38-year-old Chiellini, in his second season in Los Angeles after joining from Juventus last year, poked in a 24th minute opener after Portland had failed to deal with a cross into the box.
Ryan Hollingshead then had an effort disallowed for a foul in the box but LAFC soon had their second with Mexican forward Carlos Vela converting from the penalty spot after Santiago Moreno had brought down Kwadwo Opoku.
Vela went close to another after the break, with his curling free-kick clipping the outside of the post but Vela then turned provider with his ball inside well collected by Opoku who showed quick feet to beat David Bingham with a low drive.
Portland got themselves back in the game though when Juan Mosquera burst through the midfield and slipped the ball to club record signing Evander and the Brazilian swept home his first goal since joining from Denmark’s Midtjylland in a reported $10 million deal.
With six minutes of regular time remaining, the Timbers pulled back another when L.A. keeper John McCarthy failed to reach a cross and from the resulting scramble Paraguay international Cristhian Paredes slotted home.
Despite the late scare, LAFC held on to get their season off to a winning start after their scheduled opener last week was postponed due to bad weather.
Later on Saturday, expansion club St.Louis City FC play their first ever home game, against Charlotte while last season’s runners-up Philadelphia Union travel to Inter Miami.