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Expansion LAFC beats Seattle 1-0 in MLS opener

SEATTLE, WA – MARCH 4: at Harry Shipp #19 of the Seattle Sounders reacts after missing a shot on goal during the first half of a match against Los Angeles FC CenturyLink Field on March 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — Diego Rossi scored in the 11th minute off a pass from Carlos Vela, and expansion Los Angeles FC withstood a second-half onslaught for a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday to open the MLS season.

The league’s 23rd franchise got off to a sterling start in Bob Bradley’s first match coaching in MLS since 2006. Rossi, who turns 20 on Monday, showed his scoring skill by one-timing the pass from Vela 20 yards from goal and curling a shot past Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. It was a stunning strike, topped only by LAFC playing the final 79 minutes without giving up an equalizer.

Tyler Miller, a former backup goalkeeper in Seattle and Los Angeles’ first pick in the expansion draft, made several key stops, including deflections of shots by Nouhou Tolo in the first half and a header by Cristian Roldan midway through the second half that were both bound for the net. Seattle outshot Los Angeles 22-5.

It will be late April before LAFC gets a chance to play at home, but the club’s owners — including actor Will Ferrell — were on hand for the opener, along with 500 or so black-and-gold-clad fans in the upper corner of CenturyLink Field. They were cheering almost from the outset as Latif Blessing nearly scored on a header 65 seconds into the match.

Just 10 minutes later, Vela and Rossi linked up for the first of what will likely be many goals. Los Angeles became the fifth expansion team to win its debut and first since Vancouver in 2011.

Seattle significantly altered its lineup while trying to manage playing three games in seven days at the outset of the season. The Sounders played Santa Tecla in the second-leg of the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 last Thursday and will host Chivas de Guadalajara in the Champions League quarterfinals first-leg next Wednesday.

Those roster decisions meant Clint Dempsey was a spectator for the opener and wasn’t even listed among Seattle’s subs. Starting center back Chad Marshall was on the bench as well.

Seattle had a pair of first-half scoring chances denied by sprawling efforts. Miller made a diving one-handed save to deflect Tolo’s shot wide of the net moments after Rossi’s opening goal. Later in the half, Will Bruin’s header back across the box found Harry Shipp wide open, but his shot to an open net was blocked over the crossbar by Laurent Ciman’s desperation slide.

Seattle changed formations and used two strikers in the second half. While the Sounders dominated the scoring chances, they failed to find a goal. It’s just the second home loss for Seattle since coach Brian Schmetzer took over as coach in July 2016.

Seattle played the final minutes of the match with 10 men after Tony Alfaro picked up a second yellow card.