Bouanga lifts LAFC over Toronto FC in pre-season play

Los Angeles FC forward Denis Bouanga smiles during the second half in the MLS playoff Western Conference final soccer match against Houston Dynamo, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

LOS ANGELES — Dénis Bouanga’s second-half goal lifted Los Angeles FC to a 1-0 win over Toronto FC in an MLS pre-season game Saturday at the LAFC Performance Center at Cal State LA.

Bouanga’s goal was fortuitous, essentially a cross that deflected in off a Toronto defender.

Bouanga, a designated player, scored 20 goals for LAFC last season. He came to MLS in August 2022 from AS Saint-Ètienne in France.

Toronto was slated to return home after the match. The club opens the regular season on Feb. 25 at FC Cincinnati with the home opener two games later, March 9 against visiting Charlotte FC.

Toronto coach John Herdman liked what he saw despite the result.

“The result sometimes doesn’t reflect the performance. … I thought LAFC had their best lineup up today. We were able to put out maybe not our best lineup yet but close to it. And we really competed.”

“I thought they deserved more,” Herdman said of his players.

Federico Bernardeschi hit the woodwork twice for Toronto.

TFC previously played pre-season games against Nashville SC, the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake FC.

The Toronto starting 11 featured two unidentified trialists.

Defenders Shane O’Neill, Kobe Franklin and Raoul Petretta started in front of goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Captain Jonathan Osorio was in midfield along with Deybi Flores and Alonso Coello. Bernardeschi and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty also started.

Lorenzo Insigne did not dress for TFC for the second game in a row. Herdman said the Italian could probably have played if needed

“With it being pre-season, we’ve been very cautious with Lorenzo. … He’s not a guy you have to work with too much tactically. He’s always on the page. So we’re just making sure we can get something out of him for (the season opener in) Cincinnati and really just set him up for the season. That’s the key.”

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