LAFC coach Bob Bradley had modest expectations for his team’s first preseason game Saturday.
“We want to see that the ideas, the reactions, the speed of play, the football is all there,” he said before LAFC’s 2-0 win over Uruguayan powerhouse Peñarol in front of 18,988 at Banc of California Stadium. “It’s a way to sort of assess the first part of preseason and see where we are in all categories.”
And Bradley was content with much of what he saw while getting a look at 26 players, none of whom played more than 45 minutes.
But then some of what he saw he has seen before, with reigning MLS scoring champion Carlos Vela getting the first goal of 2020, curling in a tidy left-footed shot from the top of the box under the crossbar at the far side in the 10th minute.
Adrien Perez, who Bradley said has been the most impressive player through the first two weeks of camp, doubled the score in the 40th minute, banging in the rebound of a save following a Vela corner. The closest Peñarol got to a goal was a 61st-minute penalty kick that Facundo Torres pushed off the left post.
What was new for Bradley was the play of goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer, a veteran of 14 seasons in the Dutch league. Vermeer, signed this month, was active and comfortable in his first MLS appearance, playing the first half and making his biggest save in the 19th minute by leaping to get both hands on a whistling free kick from Xisco Jimenez.
Vermeer also got a big assist from defender Tristan Blackmon, who hustled back to make a sliding tackle to prevent a sure goal about 10 minutes before halftime.
Peñarol, winner of 50 first-division championships in Uruguay, has spent the last 10 days training in Southern California ahead of its regular-season opener next month. It beat the reigning MLS champion Seattle Sounders 1-0 last week in a closed-door scrimmage.
Saturday’s game was scheduled as part of the wide-ranging agreement that followed LAFC’s acquisition of Peñarol forward Brian Rodriguez on a transfer last summer. The teams will also exchange coaching, academy and player resources.
LAFC also brought Diego Rossi, its second-leading scorer, from Peñarol before its inaugural MLS season in 2018, but he was among seven players who sat out Saturday’s friendly because of international duty or injury.