By Don Wanlass
Los Angeles two Major League Soccer franchises opened the 2021 season on national television April 17 and 18 and both teams managed to post victories.
Los Angeles Football Club hosted the latest MSL expansion team, Austin FC, and shut out the fledgling team, 2-0.
The Galaxy went on the road, defeating Inter Miami, 3-2, in a game played on a hot, humid afternoon in Miami.
Both games were played sluggishly at first, with both L.A. teams going scoreless in the opening half.
In fact both games were almost tied 0-0 at halftime, expect Inter Miami scored during stoppage time at the end of the first half to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
Then Javier Hernandez took over for an 11-minute period in the second half, scoring two goals and letting the Galaxy fans know he was ready to assume the starring role the team was hoping for in 2020 when he was signed to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But the player known as “Chicharito” scored only two goals in an injury plagued season last year and the Galaxy finished with a 6-12-4 record, 10th in the MLS Western Conference.
Both of Hernandez’s goals tied the score for the Galaxy against Miami before Sacha Kljestan won the game in the 81st minute.
Hernandez was selected MLS Player of the week for his exploits. New Galaxy coach Greg Vanney made an adjustment at halftime, dropping one of the Galaxy forwards back to the midfield to give Hernandez more room to roam.
It paid off in the 62nd minute when Ethan Zubak broke free on the left wing and fed a cross to Hernandez who scored with a quick shot.
Inter Miami regained the lead six minutes later but Hernandez scored again on the 73rd minute after Miami misplayed the ball in the goal box. It bounced right to Hernandez at the right post for what may have been the shortest and easiest goal he ever scored.
LAFC had an easier go of it than the Galaxy, with a relatively easy 2-0 win over FC Austin.
Pablo Sisniega faced only three shots on goal and LAFC pressured Austin for much of the second half, playing without the MLS leading scorers the past two seasons for much of the way.
Diego Rossi, the league’s leading scorer last year sat out the game with an injury and Carlos Vela, the Golden Boot winner in 2019, left 23 minutes into the game with a leg injury.
It didn’t matter. LAFC staged a furious attack in the second half that at one time led to six corner kicks in a matter of minutes, they didn’t score that time but moments later Corey Baird took a pass from Danny Musovski in the 61st minute and took a right-footed shot that deflected into the net.
LAFC made that goal stand up until stoppage time when Mahala Opoku broke in behind the Austin defense and centered a pass to Jose Cifuentes who tapped it into the open net.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley called the season opener a “very good team win.”
“In stretches we played well,” he said. “We created a lot of chances. I thought we were a little bit impatient at times in the first half.”
The game at Banc of California Stadium was played in front of about 4,900 fans in the 22,000-seat stadium. It was the first time LAFC played in front of fans since March 8, 2020.
LAFC now heads out on the road for a game with the Seattle Sounders at 3 p.m. April 24. The Sounders feature Christian and Alex Roldan, two brothers from Pico Rivera. The Soudners were second in the MLS Western Conference.
The Galaxy play another road game against the New York Red Bulls at 2:30 p.m. April 25, before returning home to face the Sounders May 2 in their home opener.
RIVALRY RENEWED: Now that the Dodgers are starting to develop a healthy dislike for the San Diego Padres, the little guys to the south come north for a four-game series at Dodger Stadium starting April 22.
The Dodgers won last weekend’s series in San Diego, 2-1, which featured a near brawl in the opening game after a hit batsman and a shouting match that was profane on the part of the padres the next night after the Padres Justin Profar hit Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes’ glove with a half-hearted swing after the ball was in Barnes’ glove.
What should have been a strikeout turned into a catcher’s interference call and Profar could be seen shouting profanities at pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who said something uncomplimentary about Profar’s swing.
Players in both dugouts got to their feet, but they didn’t rush the field like they did the night before. All three games were close, with solid pitching dominating the action. The four games this weekend figure to be more of the same.
After facing Walekr Buehler, Kershaw and Trevor Bauer last weekend, the Padres face the same three and then get Julio Urias Sunday.
Buehler, Kershaw and Bauer pitched a combined 18 innings against San Diego and gave up three runs and 12 hits. San Diego starters gave up only three runs and four hits in 15 and 2/3 innings in the three games so expect this weekend’s games to come down to relief pitching and defense.
The Dodgers are 14-4, the best record in the Major Leagues, and the Padres are 10-9.
HELP IS ON THE WAY: Anthony Davis is beginning to practice again with the Lakers and could play as early as April 22 against the Dallas Mavericks. Davis has missed almost 30 games with an Achilles tendon injury and has been missed.
With the playoffs starting a month from now, the Lakers need to get Davis and LeBron James healthy and acclimated to the new players in the Lakers’ lineup, most notably center Andre Drummond, who has been better than anticipated after being signed as a free agent after the Cleveland Cavaliers released him.
Drummond is averaging 11.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game since the Lakers acquired him and has taken over the starting center job from Marc Gasol.
The Lakers are currently in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, 2½ behind Denver in fourth.
The Lakers are 3 ½ games ahead of the seventh place Mavericks, a position the Lakers would like to avoid this year because of the play-in tournament involving the seventh through 10th place teams in each conference.
If Davis and James are near full-strength the Lakers will be a better team when the playoffs get here because of the development of Talen Horton-Tucker, who is up to 19 minutes and 9 points a game and becoming another player who can create his own shot.
It will be interesting to see whose minutes Horton-Tucker will take in the playoffs when coach Frank Vogel starts to shorten his bench.
The Clippers have their own injuries to contend with. Kawhi Leonard is out with a bad foot. Serge Ibaka has a bad back and Patrick Beverley has a broken hand, but the Clippers won a battle with Portland April 20 when Paul George hit two free throws with 4.8 seconds left for a 113-112 win.
The Clippers are in third place in the Western Conference between Phoenix and Denver and would face Portland if the playoffs were to start this week. They have four more weeks to improve their position.