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Vela's hat trick leads LAFC to 3-0 opening win over Colorado

The Rapids were the Western Conference's regular-season champion last year, but looked out of sync.

LOS ANGELES — Carlos Vela scored the third hat trick of his Major League Soccer career Saturday as Los Angeles Football Club opened the season with a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids.

According to MLS, it is the fifth time a player has scored a hat trick in a team's opener. The last time was Chicago's Mike Magee in 2013 against the LA Galaxy.

Vela was the league's Most Valuable Player in 2019 with 34 goals before being limited by injuries; the Mexican standout had just nine goals in 27 appearances the past two seasons.

Vela and Latif Blessing are the only players who have been with the club since its first season in 2018, but the option on Vela's contract expires in June.

Possession was even, but LAFC had a 15-7 edge in total shots and 7-1 in shots on goal as Steve Cherundolo won his debut as head coach. Cherundolo replaced Bob Bradley, who went to Toronto after four seasons in LA.

Credit: AP
Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela, center, takes a tumble after he scored against Colorado Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough, left, during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Colorado was the Western Conference's regular-season champion last year, but looked out of sync.

Vela got things going in the 29th minute when he scored on a penalty kick after Colorado's Lalas Abubakar was called for a hand ball in the penalty area. Vela shot to the left side of the net after Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough went right.

Six minutes later, Vela got behind the Rapids' defense after a long pass from Jose Cifuentes and finished it off with a right-footed shot from the center of the box to put LAFC up 2-0 at halftime.

Vela then completed the seventh hat trick in club history with a left-footed strike just inside the box that went into the far side of the net.

>>Video above: Fans face single-digit temps to support Rapids

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