The Los Angeles-based Major League Soccer teams were in precarious spots this weekend. On Saturday night, the heavily-favored LA Galaxy was tied 0-0 with under 15 minutes left against the expansion Charlotte FC squad and their MLS-record 74,00-plus fans. On Sunday, LAFC was down 1-0 in stoppage time to 2021 MLS Cup finalist, the Portland Timbers.
That all changed when a pair of 19-year-olds stepped up and scored dramatic late goals to salvage points for their teams. Efrain Alvarez scored on a screamer for the LA Galaxy to win the game. And defender Mamadou Fall tapped one in to salvage a draw for LAFC.
These incredible performances by two of LA’s youngest soccer stars earned them a place on the MLS Team of the Week.
The LA Galaxy and LAFC are both veteran squads
Last season, there was no MLS postseason season in the Greater LA area. The LA Galaxy and LAFC finished eighth and ninth in the Western Conference, respectively, just out of the seven-team-per-conference postseason.
In the offseason, the LA Galaxy brought in three big-time veterans to help propel them to the playoffs this season. Second-year manager Greg Vanney brought in midfielder Mark Delgado, who he coached at Toronto FC. The franchise also signed versatile wingback Raheem Edwards from LAFC.
More significantly, the franchise brought 31-year-old Brazilian superstar Douglas Costa over from Bayern Munich to pair with another longtime overseas goal-scorer, Chicharito.
In downtown LA, LAFC also added experience around their established star forward, Carlos Vela. USMNT attacking mid Kellyn Acosta came over from the Colorado Rapids. The team also acquired Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxim Crepeau, Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar, and NYCFC forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
Both these veteran-laden squads looked good in the first week of the 2022 MLS season. LAFC beat the Colorado Rapids 3-0 and the LA Galaxy defeated NYCFC 1-0. However, both sides found themselves in close games in week two.
That’s when the two clubs’ unheralded teenage stars stepped up.
Efrain Alvarez and Mamadou Fall scored late goals to make the MLS Team of the Week
Efrain Alvarez is a 19-year-old left-footed Mexican midfielder for the LA Galaxy. Despite his young age, he’s actually been with the Galaxy for three years. The club brought him in as a 16-year-old, making him the seventh-youngest player ever signed by an MLS team, per MLS.com.
Against Charlotte FC this week, he came on in the 57th minute. Alvarez replaced a struggling Rayan Raveloson in front of an MLS-record 74,479 fans for Charlotte’s first-ever home game. In the 77th minute, the youngster took a pass from Raheem Edwards and ran at the Charlotte defenders.
With the defense on its heels, Alvarez pulled up from 20-plus-yards out and unleashed a left-foot corker that found its way to the top right corner. It was a beautiful goal and gave his team the 1-0 victory.
Mamadou Fall (who goes by his middle name, Mbacke, on the back of his jersey) is a 19-year-old, 6-foot-2 center back from Senegal. He signed with LAFC as an 18-year-old in 2021 after coming to America via former Premier League star (and Senegal national) Salif Diao’s Sport4Charity Organization, per LAFC.com.
Down 1-0 to Portland two-plus minutes into stoppage time, Fall found himself nearly on the goal line as LAFC winger Brian Rodriguez operated wide left. Rodriguez sent a low cross into the box that found Fall’s foot. The big man tapped it in to earn his team a point.
These stellar performances and late goals by the young LA duo earned them MLS Team of the Week spots.
The rest of the MLS Team of the Week
Joining LAFC’s Mamadou Fall and the LA Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez on the MLS Team of the Week are a number of goal-scorers from around the league.
The New York Red Bulls Lewis Morgan earned Player of the Week honors. He poured in a first-half hat trick against Toronto FC.
Joining Alvarez and Morgan in the TOW midfield are the New England Revolution’s Carles Gil (one goal), Austin FC’s Sebastián Driussi (two goals), and Columbus Crew’s Lucas Zelarayán (two goals).
Upfront, the awards went to Colorado Rapids goal-scorer Diego Rubio and the Portland Timbers Yimmy Chara, who, for the second week in a row, scored on an electrifying bicycles kick.
In addition to Fall, San Jose Earthquakes CB Francisco Calvo, who netted two against Columbus, made the Team of the Week defense. So did Minnesota United fullback Bakaye Dibassy.
In net for the MLS Team of the Week is the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Thomas Hasal. The 22-year-old keeper kept a clean sheet against the defending MLS champs, NYCFC.