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Match Preview: LAFC finally start MLS Cup defense vs. Portland Timbers

No rain today, as the MLS Cup Champs receive rings and look to start title defense off with win.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A week later than anticipated, but the start of the 2023 season has finally arrived for defending MLS Cup Champions LAFC. While it isn't the premier match, El Trafico, everyone had gotten so excited for, it is another rivalry match on tap for the team’s first match of the season, as they host Portland Timbers on Saturday afternoon. The day will also serve as the last bit of celebrating in regards to their MLS Cup victory from last year, with the team receiving their championship rings ahead of the match.

Opening matches for defending champions are always a bit tricky. Players are trying their best to focus on the new season, navigating an entire new set of obstacles, while still trying to soak in the last of the good vibes from winning it all for the first time. As a club, LAFC have never lost a season opener. They are 5-0-0, and a win today puts them in a tie with FC Dallas for most season-opening wins in MLS (6). However, defending champions have only won their season-opener once in the last six seasons, meaning LAFC will have to start the season fighting trends if they want to open up with three points.

The ring ceremony will be an extra special moment for star attacker Carlos Vela, who comes into 2023 as the lone member of the original LAFC roster still on the team. He promised he would bring glory and championships to Los Angeles, and today he gets to celebrate doing just that one last time. Despite achieving his original goal, Vela is already focused on bringing home more silverware, with his sights set on Champions League, as well as another MLS Cup run. A win today, against the always feisty Timbers side, will get the squad off to a great start as they look to not only repeat, but prove last year was no fluke.


As we all know, Max Crepeau is still recovering from his injury in the MLS Cup Final, but aside from that LAFC has no new injuries ahead of Saturday’s clash. While it is the start of the season, it's always a good feeling to come out the other side of preseason healthy. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the Portland Timbers, who come into BMO Stadium missing a handful of players:

  • OUT: Felipe Mora (left knee), Sebastian Blanco (left knee), David Ayala (right knee), Dairon Asprilla (right knee), Tega Ikoba (right knee), Yimmi Chara (right hamstring).

How To Watch:

Kickoff is set for 1:30 pm PT at BMO Stadium and will be available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV/ FOX/ ESPNLA 710 AM/980 AM.

A special note for fans attending the match today: The team has requested those wanting to witness the ring ceremony should be in their seats by 1:00 pm PT.

How excited are you for the start of the 2023 season? What are your hopes for this squad? Leave a comment below!