As LAFC prepares to travel to Nashville this weekend for the first time in Club history, Ryan Wallerson takes one last look at his favorite scenes on the one-week anniversary of LAFC downing the Galaxy 3-2 at Banc of California Stadium.
3252 Fan Fest
The energy in Banc of California Stadium against the Galaxy on Friday, July 8 was electrifying from the very beginning, but that cauldron began brewing long before the players took the field. Christmas Tree Lane is well known as a place for members of the 3252 to prepare to bring the noise, but for matches as important as this, the team augments the supporters regular gathering with a Fan Fest for fans unaffiliated with a supporter groups. The fan fest began at 3 p.m. on Friday. The supporters were tents up and grills hot by noon. At its apex, approximately 1,000 people were getting in game mode on the Lane. That energy flowed directly into the stands and made for an extremely lively crowd, even by Banc of California Stadium's high standard.
North End Blacks Out in Smoke
At the beginning of the match, as the American flag was being walked off of the pitch after the National Anthem, black smoke began to rise from the middle of the North End, from edge to edge. The smoke engulfed the entire supporter section and wafted west onto the Sunset deck. It sat over the 3252 like a rain cloud, and the supporters within couldn't see five feet ahead of them, according to Josh Lee, a leader of the Tigers supporters group.
"It started big and just got bigger and bigger until the only thing you could make out is the supporter literally shoulder to shoulder with you,” Lee said. “All of us were smiling, thinking about what it must have looked like from the other side."
With that, the stage was set and the drums began.
Jose Cifuentes laid the first brick in his Man of the Match performance in the 17th minute, when he connected on a corner kick from fellow midfielder Kellyn Acosta and headed the opening goal of the match past Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond. The goal set the tone for the entire game, which LAFC never trailed. Even after the Galaxy drew even in the 55th minute, LAFC's attacking vigor never faded, and 16 minutes later, Cifuentes found the back of the net again by deflecting a header from a Vela cross during open play. The first goal was powerful, emphatic. The second was beautiful, precise. Cristian Arango's game-winning third goal, which came within minutes of Cifu's second, was the game's most important goal, but Jose Cifuentes had two of his best moments of the season and LAFC needed them both.
Goal Celebration Around Chiellini on Sideline
Speaking of Chicho's decisive goal, one of the greatest images from Friday night was the celebration after LAFC's third and final goal. In the 72nd minute of the match, LAFC's substitutes were up and getting loose. Among them was Giorgio Chiellini, who looked like he might be preparing to make his debut to help keep the Galaxy from finding another goal. The possibility died when Chicho found the back of the net to retake the lead, but the Italian legend was in the center of the celebrations with the subs and players on field alike. There will surely be many more scenes like that this summer for the former Juventus man, but you never forget your first.
Bale Postgame Celebration
After the final whistle, once the celebration was on, the North End's victory ceremony was led by LAFC's newest player, Welsh striker Gareth Bale. Chiellini's first live impression of LAFC was a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas two weeks ago, and the 3252 have now gotten to celebrate both imports while basking in the afterglow of a home win. Bale led the SHA-LALA LAFC chant, and hit the LAFC fist pump. His white shirt was doused in water by his new teammates until it translucently stuck to his body, but the former Real Madrid man took it all in stride and was left in awe of his new supporters after the match.
"Incredible, I couldn't be more impressed! They're incredible. They must have lost their voices [tonight],” Bale said.
Home wins against the Galaxy will do that, Gareth.