This is the story of a king who was getting really bored on his throne for 22 years in a Kingdom where not much was happening. From here, Los Angeles isn’t the first nor the fiftieth city that comes to your mind when talking about football. In California, Galaxy’s domination never really suffered any comparison, especially when we know that the club was born in 1996 at the same time than the MLS. Most successful team in the history of the League, the colourful Galaxy looks like its cinema empire. You sit down at the sun with your pop-corn and you watch the undisputed champion to lift all the trophies. But the MLS was getting too predictable, and Peter Guber wanted to get things moving.
This movie producer, also co-owner of Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Dodgers, wants to turn the city of angels into black and gold. He sells the project of a new franchise to a new group of investors, including Vincent Tan (Cardiff owner which looks a like a mad scientist), Will Ferrell and Mia Hamm, legend of USA Women soccer team. We will not take you through all the financial details to build the business because first we don’t want to spend hours getting into that and second because that’s not the point here. In 2018’s MLS, which wants to move from the retirement home to the high school full of talents, a new team with a lot of expectations is more than welcome. There’s one thing that’s for sure: LAFC isn’t here to play the role of an extra.
Before they even manage to recruit a manager and eleven players, LA FC already made the news. In the head office, they think start-up nation and they got it right very quickly that if you want to get the club and the brand at the top, you need to build the fanbase and get it involved. Also, thanks the Latino community, LA FC just needs to embrace their codes and culture to make sure the atmosphere becomes as intense as these countries where football is king. Before the team even started playing its first game in the MLS, the club already had the biggest fanbase of the whole League on social media.
The scene is set for this LA derby to become the biggest rivalry of the League. Even though up North, Ultras of Sounders and Timbers are doing their best to be heard of, California’s sun shines much brighter. And that’s good for the MLS. LA FC management made the team the one you want to support, and that works. For the first act of this derby, a Swedish lion torn appart los Angelinos and Galaxy won the first battle in their home ground, StubHub Center. For the second part, we wanted to make sure we were there to check if this rivalry was fake as a pair of boobs from Hollywood, if LA FC Ultras were a genuine group of supporters, and mostly if those fucking Americans know how to play football!
On Thursday, July 26th, Banc of California stadium is sold-out, buzzing before the first derby in history at LA FC home ground. The stadium have been really well designed, with an open alley that go all around the stands. Only issue though, it is forbidden to get in with any kind of bags, either a backpack or just a damned tote bag. Even more weird, drugs and guns aren’t allow inside neither. When it comes to the atmosphere, the MLS is a different beast than the Premier League! A pretty big kop, flags, tifos, songs and flares, it has nothing to do with the silence of Arsenal FC’s library. LA FC it’s the South American atmosphere from Ousmane Dembele’s Winchester FC, under the sun and palm trees. The management of the club works collaboratively with Ultras and that makes a real difference. A reference for Europe where the different Leagues tend to do everything to ban good atmospheres from football stadiums. It’s also quite a thing when you realise that every single fan wears at least one thing at the colours of the team: jersey, t-shirt, scarf or a hat, you don’t go to watch a game without showing your support. And that’s at the full benefit of the club, with revenues guaranteed at every game thanks to sells of merchandising and drinks.
The show is present on the pitch too. Despite defensive organisation which is pretty random, the level of the game is way above what we can imagine from Europe. Carlos Vela, the Mexican legend, get everyone excited in the stands and in the Galaxy defence every time he touches the ball. He’s quick, skilled, and his touch always in the goals direction prove that he’s got the level to play in the top European teams. The central midfielder Lee Nguyen and the winger Latif Blessing support him to cause havoc in LA Galaxy defence. At the back, it’s the General Laurent Ciman who’s in charge of securing the team. During the whole game, the Galaxy didn’t manage to do much, but that was enough as they managed to score two goals coming out of nowhere in the last ten minutes. Romain Alessandrini added a bit of fire in a team that was sleeping, especially because of the old guard which didn’t manage to find the right rhythm. Ashley Cole, Michael Ciani and a dude called Zlatan Ibrahimovic had quite a hard time to show what they’re really made of during this first LA derby hosted at the black and gold’s. But Zlatan doesn’t really give a shit about what people think about his game: “The ground is too small for me. I’m used to play in 80,000 seats stadiums. Tonight, 20,000 people booing at me, it’s just like practice.”
Los Angeles derby, honestly it’s at least as good as Manchester derby. Without unemployed people, and with the sunshine.