Los Angeles Times

Bouanga hat trick powers LAFC

Second-half scoring outburst keys win in Champions League first-round match.


A second-half hat trick from Denis Bouanga gave LAFC a 3-0 win over Alajuelens­e in a first-round CONCACAF Champions League game Thursday in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

With the aggregate score determinin­g the winner of the two-game playoff, LAFC can advance to the tournament quarterfin­als even if it loses by multiple goals in the return leg Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Bouanga opened the scoring less than two minutes into the second half, tapping home a low Ryan Hollingshe­ad cross at the far post. He doubled the advantage 22 minutes later on an almost identical play, with Hollingshe­ad dodging a challenge from Alajuelens­e’s Suhander Zúñiga on the right wing before sending another low pass across the front of the goal for Bouanga, who had an easy finish.

Bouanga closed the scoring in the final minute of regulation time, taking a back-heel pass from Ilie Sánchez and beating Alajuelens­e keeper Leonel Moreira with a right-footed blast from the left side of the penalty area.

Bouanga also had the best scoring opportunit­y in the first half, but he banged a left-footed shot off the left post.

LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy made five saves to record his first shutout since November 2021 while Moreira had nine in the loss.

LAFC, which made it to the Champions League final in its last appearance in 2020, outshot Alajuelens­e 2513, putting 12 of those tries on target.

LAFC will return to MLS play in between its two Champions League matches, playing host to Bruce Arena and the New England Revolution on Sunday night at BMO Stadium. .

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