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Hugo Lloris makes 7 saves and wins MLS debut in Los Angeles FC's 2-1 victory over Seattle Sounders

Sat, Feb 24, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Hugo Lloris makes 7 saves and wins MLS debut in Los Angeles FC's 2-1 victory over Seattle Sounders

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Less than three minutes into his Major League Soccer debut, Hugo Lloris had to make a point-blank save after a teammate's mistake left him all alone in front of his new net.

The World Cup-winning French goalkeeper handled it with the same poise he showed repeatedly during an impressive first day at his new job.

Lloris made seven saves while leading Los Angeles FC to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

Lloris moved stateside last December after 11 1/2 seasons with Tottenham, including a decade as the Spurs' starting goalkeeper. The 37-year-old won the World Cup for France in 2018, and he has played in a goalkeeper-record 20 matches over four World Cup tournaments.

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With his wife and three children watching from the stands at their new home, Lloris showed off the skill, steadiness and leadership LAFC is expecting from the most accomplished goalkeeper ever signed by the club.

"The first game is always special," Lloris said. "Doesn't matter your experience, doesn't matter your level, and I could feel it today. I felt good, even if I need to work on some aspects of my game. I try to transmit my experience, my confidence, and then I try to help the team."

Timothy Tillman and Mateusz Bogusz scored for LAFC, which began its drive for a third straight MLS Cup Final appearance after winning the league's postseason title in 2022 and reaching the Final again last season. LAFC has won its season opener in all seven seasons of its existence.

Lloris made that first save in the third minute on a close-range shot by Jordan Morris after LAFC's Jesus David Murillo coughed up the ball in an awful spot. The immediate pressure had no impact on Lloris, who didn't allow a goal from open play.

"I think we could not start in a better way," Lloris said. "The most important thing was to get the three points. We're still working on our fitness level, and we suffered the last 20 minutes, but with the help of the crowd, we were able to win."

Lloris was repeatedly cool under pressure and the veteran goalkeeper also opened a new facet of LAFC's attack with impressive distribution on a series of long passes to his forwards. Although he's still getting to know his teammates' tendencies while simultaneously settling into family life in suburban Encino, he's already making a significant impact on LAFC's plans for the season.

"His first game was very clean," LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. "Important saves. Just a steady rock for us. A sense of security when he's there. He's drawing back on years and years of experience playing at a high level. His decision-making on the ball is going to make us a lot better."

Pedro De La Vega scored in the 72nd minute of his MLS debut for Seattle on a penalty awarded to the Sounders after an egregiously long video review, but Seattle still lost to the rival that ended its 2023 season in the Western Conference final.

Andrew Thomas made his MLS debut in goal for Seattle.

Tillman put LAFC ahead in the 45th minute with a mid-air blast of a cross from Omar Campos, the 21-year-old Mexican left back signed in January from Santos Laguna as a possible replacement for Diego Palacios.

Bogusz doubled LAFC's lead in the 55th minute with a beautiful, curling strike into the top far corner. The 22-year-old Polish forward scored only three goals in 28 appearances for LAFC last year.

Seattle was awarded its penalty several minutes after Aaron Long and Morris made contact at the top of the LAFC box, with Long receiving a very belated yellow card. It was converted by De La Vega, who joined Seattle as a designated player in January for a hefty transfer fee from Lanus in his native Argentina.

LAFC began a new season by playing its first match without Carlos Vela, the franchise's first player and the 2018 MLS MVP. The Mexican star remains at home unsigned, but LAFC is hoping to find a way through MLS' labyrinthine salary rules to bring him back.

LAFC also is back without longtime left back Palacios and central defender Giorgio Chiellini. The Italian great, who was honored for his retirement before the match, is now a player development coach for LAFC.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/soccer

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