Hollywood Ending to LA Football Club Inaugural Opener
May 3, 2018
The christening was so Los Angeles with a classic Hollywood ending. The inaugural unveiling of the Banc of California Stadium exploded in black and gold ecstasy when defender Laurent Ciman's last minute free kick found the back of the goal, giving first-year wonder LAFC a stunning 1-0 victory over crestfallen Seattle Sounders FC.
"It was a good chance for me to go to goal. Based on the last game, I felt that I had to go for it, and I didn't question it too much," stated Ciman. "Defensively, I felt that everyone was focused, there was a lot of concentration in the back, we spoke a lot and we got the clean sheet."
The sold-out crowd of 22,000 simultaneously erupted with the unexpected score in the 93rd minute Sunday night. LAFC's inaugural triumph on their home pitch immediately etched the win into the club's lore. From the unbridled revelry hours before the match, to the final whistle, the unrelenting support swept a new era of fan enthusiasm and participation into S. California.
"You get in all kinds of games, but it's nice to not have to open this incredible new stadium in Los Angeles with a zero-zero. So, we take our one-zero," opened LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley.
"My favorite part was just walking out there at the beginning. It was awesome. I talk often about if you want to be a team that can play football, you have to have a great field. The field was incredible, it was wet, the ball moved, but at the end we also weren't shaken."
MLS's newest franchise at 5-2-0 have the best seven-game start for an expansion team in league history. LAFC earned three points for the victory, keeping them in second place in the Western Conference with 15 points, just two shy of virtual leader, Sporting Kansas City. Starting the season 4-2 on the road has given LAFC confidence and the luxury of enjoying a four-game homestand.
Actor and co-owner Will Ferrell made a surprise entrance in the pregame ceremonies, serving as an honorary falconer.
"The Leap Frogs" from U.S. Navy SEALS were skydiving onto the pitch.
LAFC's supporting clubs' organization, The 3252, led with the Star Spangled Banner from their designated section (behind the goal in the north end of the Banc of California Stadium.)
The 3252 kept the crowd engaged throughout the entire game, rocking the stadium with synchronized cheers and chants accompanied by a strong percussion section.
LAFC forward Carlos Vela: "All the people were waiting for this moment and I think it was a great day, of course maybe the game was not the most fun to watch, but in the end. We won and everyone was excited and they enjoyed it."
"It seems more than a stadium, I think the club did a great job and today they are enjoying the fruit. The fans were amazing singing from the beginning to the end."
Seattle controlled the ball for much of the first half but came away empty-handed. Both sides attempted to find cracks in the defense but very few combinations and serious attacks materialized. The match appeared to be headed for a scoreless tie to the dismay of the crowd eager for a definitive result. Ultimately, their patience was rewarded.
Seattle FC led in time of possession in first half: 52.6% to 47.4% for LAFC. The tides turned in the second half as LAFC controlled the ball even more: 53.9% to 46.1. LAFC also won 51.3% of the duels and had a total of 16 shots to Seattle's 15.
"And today is one of those great moments... From the time I met Peter Guber and Henry Nguyen and Tom Penn and the rest of the group to being in this stadium today and seeing the crowd and all of you here today, to see this team really get connected in this city is just really wonderful," answered Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber addressing the media at halftime.
"I had lunch with Zlatan (Ibrahimovic, L.A. Galaxy star forward) today... One of things he did say: "there's a lot of interest and on our league internationally." We're hearing that and feeling that. The league is getting a lot more credibility if you will globally. And I think it's deserved. I think we earned it."
Only four of LAFC's shots were on target, including the most important one. Seattle FC threatened six direct shots on goal to no avail as LAFC goaltender Tyler Miller threw kept Seattle in check with his back line: Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Ciman and Jordan Harvey. Kaye and Benny Feilhaber kept the defense centered. Omar Gaber, Diego Rossi, Vela and Ureña upfront pushed the offense.
Kaye received a yellow card in the 63rd minute. Seattle's Cristian Roldan and Osvaldo Alonso were also given yellow cards for fouls. João Moutinho replaced Rossi in the 89th minute. Eduard Atuesta subbed for Kaye in the 64th minute and Latif Blessing came in for Omar Gaber in the 59th minute.
Ciman's winning shot was set up by a foul by Roldan on Vela with about one minute remaining in extended time. Ciman then curled his long free kick over the Seattle wall that caught Sounder goalkeeper Stefan Frei off-guard. The ball skipped into the back of the net.
"I'm a player that has a lot of experience in environments like tonight's," stated Ciman. "There was a lot of excitement of course, and every player felt it. The important thing again was that the team was able to win the game, and now we have to think about the next game coming up against Dallas."
FC Dallas visit L.A. this Saturday, May 5 at 1:00 p.m. They are currently in fourth place in the MLS Western Conference with a 3-1-3 record. Minnesota United FC comes to town on Wednesday, May 9 at 7:00 p.m. The four-game homestand wraps up with New York City FC on tap May 13 at 5:30 p.m.