Carlos Vela scored on a beautiful chip shot shortly before halftime and Los Angeles FC beat Inter Miami 1-0 on Sunday in the inaugural game for owner David Beckham's MLS expansion team.
Vela controlled the ball with his chest and eluded four defenders before chipping a perfect shot over Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles from the edge of the box. The 44th-minute goal decided the season opener for both teams.
Vela scored on his 31st birthday and dampened a celebratory day for Inter Miami, which joined the North American league along with Nashville SC this season as its 25th and 26th teams. Miami wore white jerseys with pale pink shorts for its first game, and its new roster competed solidly against one of MLS' elite teams.
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Beckham, the former LA Galaxy star, wore an Inter Miami team blazer as he watched the game from a luxury box at Banc of California Stadium along with his wife, Victoria, and his ownership partners. Miami also packed several hundred raucous fans into the visiting supporters' section, where they waved pink banners and held up banners hailing their new franchise.
Robles made eight saves for Miami. LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer made seven saves while posting a shutout in the Dutch veteran's MLS debut, but he wasn't tested as sharply as Robles until the final 10 minutes, when Matias Pelligrini and Nicolas Figal forced him to make tough stops.
Vela won the Golden Boot with a league-record 34 goals last season while being named MLS MVP, and he led a solid offensive effort by LAFC, which is a favorite to contend for the league title again. LAFC won the Supporters' Shield last season with the best regular-season record in MLS history before reaching the Western Conference final.
Miami has another road game at D.C. United next weekend before its home opener against the Galaxy at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on March 14.