I’ve been a football fan my entire life. With my Dad being from Scotland, I was able to grow up on the sport. It was the first sport I played as a child, and when I stopped playing, I become a referee in order to stay in the sport. As I’ve grown older, and the internet has become better, I’ve been able to watch more and more games. My first love, Glasgow Celtic FC, from Scotland, has always had my heart. My dad supports them, his dad supported them, and his dad supported them, pretty much going back to 1888. I’ve watched more Celtic games than I can count, and I still wake upat 4amto watch them back in Scotland. As an American, I never felt like I had a soccer team here in the United States, even though I remember the early days of the MLS, and I lived only an hour away from the home of the Colorado Rapids. I’ve always watched football at home, never getting the chance to experience the agony or ecstasy of a game with thousands of other fans. This all changed dramatically on Sunday, when my second love, LAFC, opened up their new stadium in theatrical fashion.
Sunday was historic, fun, intense, and full of passion. The Banc of California Stadium, the first open air stadium in Los Angeles since Dodger’s Stadium, finally opened its doors for all of its fans, supporters, members, and players. The last 30 minutes leading up to kickoff, there was a buzz that could not be contained, everyone was ready to explode! And right when referee finally blew his whistle to start the home opener, the stadium got loud, as if we had just scored a goal! I thought as much while in the stadium, but re-watching the game yesterday, I noticed how insanely loud it really was. During the entire first half, LAFC played really tight, as if they were really worried about blowing the big game. I can’t blame them as this was going to be their first time in front of all the home fans and wanted to impress everyone in attendance. The defense stood solid, with Ciman ordering everyone where to go and pushing up the back line up high. I knew that if we could get to halftime with a 0-0 draw, we had a really good shot at winning the game.
Finally, in the second half, LAFC started to find it’s legs and moving the ball a little bit better. The lack of a midfield right now is really glaring, definitely one of the items this team needs to fix in the foreseeable future. We have survived so far, and we will be able to change that once Andre Horta shows up from Portugal this summer (NOTE: LAFC traded for Lee Nguyen from New England late last night, this should also really help). We had plenty of chances to get the ball into the back of the net, dictating play from pretty much the 60th minute onward. We still did not take any shots from the left side of the field, tied for the lowest all season. Even our pressure was low from the left, which shows you that Seattle was going to make us play from the middle and right side, something that we just couldn’t adapt to all game. By the 85th minute, my buddy, Brenden, who I’m sharing season tickets with, looked at me and said, “I’ll find it so ironic that at our first game at home we don’t score and yet end up with our first draw.” Little did we know, LAFC still had some magic up their sleeve.
I really don’t know what caused the stadium to do the full tifo again (the gold and black sheets around the stadium), but I really think it worked to put the players into overdrive. The 3252 started one of my favorite chants, “LA (bump) (bump) (bump) FC (bump) (bump) (bump)” and everyone else in the stadium grabbed their sheets and started to thrust them into the air, like they were pom-poms. I heard from someone who was in a suite for the game that “It was one of the coolest and most spontaneous things I’ve ever seen at a game!” The noise was starting to crescendo, as we were all rooting for our first home goal.
And then finally, Ciman is standing over the ball again, with only a minute to spare in the game. In a deja vu moment from last week, everyone was hoping for a top corner rocket again. My buddy, Brenden, looks at me and says with a straight face “This ball’s going into the back of the net”.
If you watch the replay of everyone’s epic videos on YouTube, you hear the stadium go really quiet right when Ciman starts his run towards the ball, as if everyone is saying a small word of encouragement right before he strikes it. The ball is not struck well, but it moves *just enough* in the air, that Stefan Frei doesn’t bring it in, and the Banc collective loses its mind. Personally, I don’t know when I’ve yelled that loud. I lost it. Brenden lost it. The season ticket holders around me lost it. The 3252 were losing it. It was like a pressure value had been building all day and night long, and finally it was able to release. Ciman with the winner, LAFC with three more points, and the fans leaving happy. Not bad for an opening night!
I’ve been able to go to a lot of sporting events throughout my life, including seeing Celtic FC play in Glasgow back in 2004, but the home opener for LAFC will always be one of my top live sporting events for the rest of my life. The passion of LAFC fans is real. The energy in the stadium was real. The team looks like they’re for real. The 3252 is for real. The stadium is for real. After 3 years of everyone being a part, almost like a nebulous, we all finally came together, cheered on our team to our first home 3 points. We are for real.
YOU CAN FOLLOW ANDREW ON TWITTER AT @APDORAN. FEEL FREE TO SEND COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS, OR IDEAS TO HIM!