Former Pitt midfielder Javi Perez made his MLS debut with LAFC over the weekend, as he took the field at Banc of California Stadium in the 78th minute of his team’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
At that point, the game was tied 1-1, but the situation tipped in LAFC’s favor about six minutes later, when Real Salt Lake midfielder Justin Portillo was shown a red card for a foul on LAFC forward Diego Rossi. With Real Salt Lake down a man, LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman was able to slot a shot into the top right corner of the RSL goal to give his team a 2-1 advantage that it would not relinquish.
Incredible feeling last night. Making my MLS debut in front of our amazing fans and winning the match in the last minutes was unreal! Proud to be part of the Black&Gold! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/cCevDPbX2O— Javi Perez (@Javi8Perez) March 24, 2019
"Incredible feeling last night," Perez said in a tweet on Sunday. "Making my MLS debut in front of our amazing fans and winning the match in the last minutes was unreal! Proud to be part of the black and gold!"
While Perez only appeared in the game for 12 minutes and reeled off one shot that missed its mark, his league debut was historic, as he became the first Pitt product to take part in an MLS match. His presence also benefited his team, and Vince La Rossa of LAFC.com broke down the significance of Perez’s contributions in his Los Angeles debut.
”Perez’s ability on the ball in deep areas gave LAFC another option to recycle play, switching the point of attack with RSL down to 10 men,” La Rossa said. “He also gave Zimmerman the freedom to step up into the attack, and we all know how that worked out.”
With the win, LAFC improved to 3-0-1 on the season and climbed to first place in the Western Conference. As for Perez, given the impact his presence had on the game, it’s possible he could ease into a more prominent role with the team as the season wears on.