On a grimy corner of downtown , LAFC were selling a dream from the unpromising surroundings of a warehouse adjacent to a freeway underpass.
Construction had only just begun on the 20-month project to create a new 22,000-seater stadium on the site of the former LA Memorial Sports Arena, and the freshly-launched club needed something to show potential supporters other than a building plot.
A couple of miles away from their home ground in-the-making, LAFC created their Experience Center. The surroundings were underwhelming, but the message was overwhelming. Visiting Angelinos received a thorough briefing on the club’s plans and were able to envisage the new $350m home ground twill monitor Nicolas Pepe’s progress in training before deciding if he will face Newcastle United this weekend.The £72m signing did not play in Sunday’s loss to Barcelona, with Emery confirming he stayed behind to train in London.Speaking after the hrough 3D models and virtual reality films.
“I took the tour and I was hooked. I paid my $100 deposit straightaway,” fan Hector Marrujo reminisces as he took his inaugural journey to the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday.
“I’m Mexican so I’ve always supported Club America, but I never likefielder Sean Longstaff has dismissed critics of his form this season.The North-Shields born midfielder has drawn criticism from some as this season’s performances fail to hit the heights of the 2018-19 campaign.The 22-year-old reveals that he is welld the Galaxy – even the name ‘Galaxy’ has always seemed lame to me – and LAFC are actually in the city. I don’t have to travel to Carson, there’s an LA zip code. But what really got me was this is something new and exciting. There’s a vision with young, exciting players.”
The 17,500 season ticket holders who took that leap of faith were rewarded on Sunday evening, as the LAFC dream became a reality.
Downtown Los Angeles’ first professional open-air sporting venue since Dodger Stadium opened its doors in 1962 was not graced by a classic opening fixture, although there was an ear-splitting finale after captain Laurent Ciman’s stoppage time free-kick was haplessly spilled by Seattle Sounders keeper Stefan Frei.
It may have been a slightly comical opening goal at the stadium after LAFC had largely huffed and puffed in their attempts to break down the 2016 Cup winners. But that’s five wins out of seven Western Conference games now. There has been no teething period for Bob Bradley’s side.
“It’s nice not to inaugurate the stadium with a 0-0. Maybe someone was looking down on us!” said a beaming Bradley afterwards.
However, this was about more than 90 minutes. After playing their opening six games away from home (although one of those was the LA derby), this was the day where it felt that Major League Soccer’s newest franchise had truly arrived.
Well, it was more touchdown than take-off after Navy Seals parachuted onto the turf carrying the match ball. The expected pre-match palava continued with fireworks, a fan-led rendition of the national anthem and, oh yes, co-owner Will Ferrell carrying a trained falcon called Olly onto the pitch sporting an LAFC headdress.
The gold and black clad fanbase didn’t need any fancy gimmicks to capture their attention, though. Whether it’s the geographical advantage that LAFC possess over neighbors Galaxy (who are 10 miles away in the outlying city of Carson) or the idea of a new, fresh and exciting venture, supporters have become instantly invested in a team boasting a history of just seven competitive games.
The rowdy safe standing terraced North Stand had an air of the Bundesliga to it, as members of the ‘3253’ supporters group bounced and waved frantically to the rhythm of a bass drum orchestra.
Although there was little slickness on show against Seattle, LAFC’s open, attacking philosophy will surely attract even more supporters after Bradley’s men have averaged more than two goals per game during the season’s formative stages.
It comes at the cost of defensive rigidity. Yes, LAFC registered a third clean sheet of the campaign, but they shipped 13 in the other four games. There is a definite air of susceptibility to the back three: the Sounders spurning two glorious opportunities within the opening 10 minutes to silence the excitable home crowd.
But in a front three of Diego Rossi, Marco Urena and Carlos Vela, LAFC possess an attack arguably good enough to rival reigning MLS ch revelation in the new book of BVB chief Hans-Joachim Watzke – ‘REAL LIEBE – end of Leben mit dem BVB’.The Reds manager is quoted, stating: “As a lifesaver when the club really needs my help. “Why wouldn’t I do it? It’s just nice to get that chance. ampions Toronto. Vela, in particular, shines bright in his ability to persistently find pockets of space and dictate proceedings in the final third.
Bradley said: “We’re not Barcelona yet. Our football’s not perfect, but we go out every game and try to play. Every team has to come up with its identity and its way of playing, but I think it’s clear we’ll try to continue going in that direction.”
General manager John Thorrington deserves enormous credit for putting together such an attacking line-up. LAFC’s 30-strong ownership group of Hollywood and Malaysian business, sporting and entertainment heavyweights have clearly shown their acumen in building the club from scratch over the last four years after the collapse of Chivas left a gap in the southern California market.
But Thorrington, the former US international, crucially avoided the temptation to follow Galaxy’s example of bringing household names to Los Angeles. Instead, this is a project more akin to Atlanta United, with young, hungry, accomplished players from Central and South America.
Although Galaxy’s star turn Zlatan Ibrahimovic has proved to be a media darling since arriving in California and inflicted such a memorable wound in the inaugural derby between the two clubs, LAFC already boast the infrastructure to challenge their neighbors in the long-term.
Encouragingly, they’re only at the start of the journey.