LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale weren’t quite ready to play in Los Angeles FC’s rivalry derby, both stars got an up-close look at the passion and potential in their new club.
José Cifuentes scored two goals and Cristian Arango got the eventual winner late in the second half, leading LAFC past the LA Galaxy 3-2 on Friday night in another exciting edition of the clubs’ El Tráfico crosstown rivalry.
LAFC improved its record atop the Major League Soccer standings to 12-4-3 as it waits for the imminent debuts of its two superstar European signings.
Chiellini was in uniform, but the 37-year-old Italian defender did not make his MLS debut. He left the touch line along with his fellow reserves to mob Arango in celebration of his goal in the 72nd minute.
Chiellini signed last month after 17 seasons at Juventus, and LAFC clearly could use his steady presence in the back end after this back-and-forth derby.
Bale only arrived in Los Angeles earlier Friday, but the longtime Real Madrid star got a long, loud pregame ovation while standing on the field and waving to the sold-out stadium.
“You saw how quickly a player gets integrated into our circle,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. “We will get Gareth in (uniform) ASAP. He was ready tonight, but I think it would have been asking a little much to have him come off the plane and right into the game.”
Bale celebrated each of his new team’s goals from a luxury box at Banc of California Stadium, and the Welsh forward went back to the field afterward and grabbed a megaphone to lead a postgame chant with their fans while his new teammates doused him with water.
“We’re all excited to have him join our squad,” LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “We think he’s a key addition. It was huge for him to be a part of our celebration, to see the atmosphere here at the Banc with the 3252 (supporters’ association).”
Samuel Grandsir and Rayan Raveloson scored for the Galaxy, who have just two victories in their last eight matches. Douglas Costa, the Galaxy’s biggest offseason addition, missed the derby under MLS suspension.
LAFC went ahead in the 17th minute when Cifuentes got left alone in the box to head home Acosta’s corner.
The Galaxy evened it in the 55th minute on a long, low shot through traffic by Grandsir, the French forward who hadn’t found the net in his first 17 matches this season.
But Cifuentes put LAFC back ahead in the 70th minute with another header off an excellent cross from former MLS MVP Carlos Vela, who then fed Arango for his breakaway goal two minutes later. Vela secured his own future with LAFC recently by signing a long-anticipated contract extension.
Raveloson kept it close with a header in the 81st minute, but LAFC hung on.
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