In LAFC, Galaxy has legit competition for the hearts of SoCal soccer fans
I remember being at StubHub Center during the fall of 2014 to see the end of Chivas USA as a MLS franchise.
It was an unceremonious end to a forgotten franchise with only a fringe section of fans to hang their hats on. While the Goats were celebrating Felix Borja delivering the team’s final goal in a 1-0 send-off against San Jose, America’s G.O.A.T was in the process of delivering another MLS Cup to the LA Galaxy.
Landon Donovan retired from the MLS in 2014 after cementing the hometown Galaxy’s status as the MLS flagship franchise. Four years later, the Galaxy’s status as the premier soccer team in Los Angeles is being threatened.
While Chivas USA was no competition, LAFC is as formidable of an in-city rival as any other paring in Los Angeles sports. The Dodgers and Kings have that city to themselves while the Angeles and Ducks make due in Orange County. The Clippers and Chargers are a far second to the Lakers and Rams. But it’s clear that LAFC can overtake the Galaxy as the city’s premier soccer team.
From the ashes of the Sports Arena comes the state of the art Banc of California Stadium. With the view of downtown Los Angeles overlooking the newly minted pitch, the LAFC fans crowd the stadium and become the atmosphere. In a town full of entertainers, no celebrity singing voice is necessary for the national anthem. That honorable duty falls on the fans. An environment like this one, fostered by a winning team, is much more desirable downtown next to the LA Coliseum than in Carson.
The Galaxy were supposed to make the playoffs this season. The arrival of superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a win in the first edition of “El Traffico” against LAFC, should have signified the Galaxy’s return to prominence. Instead, a rough six-match stretch in which the team could not come up with a win led to the abrupt firing of manager Sigi Schmid, who is ironically the winningest coach in MLS history.
If LAFC somehow gets the playoff spotlight all to themselves and go on a run similar to fellow first-year franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL, a huge chunk of is currently in third place of the Western Conference with only four points away from tying Sporting KC for the top spot. Meanwhile, the Zlatan led Galaxy are in eighth place with six points behind the Portland Timbers for the final playoff spot.
Every new franchise needs their forever player that the fans can rally around as their own from start to finish. 25-year-old goalkeeper Tyler Miller is that guy for them. After only two career starts in two years with the Seattle Sounders, Miller joined LAFC and has gone from a little known backup to a starter that ranks in the top league’s five in saves (101), wins (13) and shutouts (8).
The main goalkeeper was supposed to be Luis Lopez, who was the starter on the Honduran national team. His injury in training camp gave Miller the opening he needed to carve out his place on the lineup and reach the point where the fans are chanting his name in recognition of a valiant performance in front of the net.
“We had tremendous support this entire year,” Miller said, “and I’ve come to build a lot of relationships with the supporters throughout the year. Playing in front of 20,000 fans every game is an amazing experience for me. I love our supporters. They do a tremendous job each game and so for them to cheer my name is an honor and I don’t take it for granted cause I know how much they pay for their season tickets and come watch us play. It means a lot to me.”
I predict that within two years, LAFC will be the toast of the town.
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