For some commentary on our three-year anniversary, LAFC reached out to writer and season-ticket member Alex Dwyer — who penned a wish list for LAFC in soccer magazine Howler two-and-a-half years ago and covers the club for MLS.com — to see what he thought of the club’s progress thus far.
Three years ago, Los Angeles was a much different sports city than it is today.
The Dodgers were licking their wounds after crashing out in the National League Division Series. The L.A. Kings were beginning defense of their second Stanley Cup. An aging Kobe Bryant put 31 past the Suns on the road at the start of an NBA season that would see Steph Curry lift his first league title with Golden State. L.A. had no NFL team.
In the soccer world, members of the United States Men’s National Team were enjoying some well-earned fame after their performance in Brazil during the World Cup of Summer 2014 and the L.A. Galaxy were chomping at the bit to start the playoffs en route to their record fifth MLS title.
Somewhere in all the noise, a thin scarf appeared above the dusty trails of Griffith Park — written in a reddish-orange and white font — against the asphalt arteries of Western, Normandie, and Vermont Avenues, the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles jutting out into the late morning Autumn haze above.
You see, that morning, MLS commission Don Garber awarded a new team to Los Angeles.
Here’s what’s transpired for Los Angeles Football Club since:
The Downtown Stadium
The most important item on the LAFC checklist since day one was a soccer-specific stadium in downtown. There was no way around that and the owners knew it. Less than a year after announcing its existence, the club held a media event beside the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, to announce the L.A. Sports Arena — a venue the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, USC, UCLA, and NASL’s Aztecs all called home at one point (also where then-senator John F. Kennedy was nominated for president at the 1960 Democratic National Convention) — would be torn down. On its sacred ground and in the shadows of the downtown skyline, LAFC’s home stadium would rise. At the groundbreaking in August, 2016, a local bank invested a record nine-figure sum for a ten-year naming rights deal, and Banc of California Stadium was born as owners Will Ferrell and Magic Johnson, donning LAFC hardhats, worked the levers in excavators to begin moving the earth to make way for a pitch. Earlier this year, with construction in full swing, the club invited members to personally select their premium seats and allowed supporters to engrave their names on the stadium's foundation.
The Name, Colors, and Crest
After revealing the stadium site, but before all the excitement of the groundbreaking, the club held another media event — this one at the recently revamped Union Station — where it announced some important aesthetic decisions. Thankfully, they opted to stick with the straightforward name “Los Angeles Football Club.” Secondly, they unveiled a crest which, from the onset, became the envy of every soccer club in the country — and dared to encroach on the Dodger’s simple but quintessential white on blue two-letter merge design. The city’s architectural DNA had so many chromosomes from which to mine inspiration — Frank Lloyd Wright, American Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival – but only one was both bold and soaring enough to capture the glorious angel of the city’s namesake: Art Deco. At once suggestive of the commanding crown atop the US Bank Building but recalling the 1930s Bunker Hill that inspired John Fante’s Ask The Dust, the twin arching letters of the club crest was a statement. To dress the Art Deco Angel (and the club) in the mystery and solidity of black and the aspirational gold — suggestive of our relentless sunshine — was a masterstroke the city embraced immediately.
The City & Community
Throughout 2016 and the early part of this year, while black and gold LAFC regalia flew off the racks at local soccer institutions like Niky’s Sports, LAFC soccer clinics were held around the city to introduce the club to a diverse and multi-cultural element of the city, providing much-needed exercise and excitement for the city’s underserved citizens. This year, the club also hosted a free-to-enter 48-team tournament for youth clubs across the county. Meanwhile, LAFC supporters sung along the tracks of Metro’s new Exposition Line extension all the way down to Santa Monica on opening day of the route, taking an active role in the Mayor’s vision to fasten-together the city — and the sports lovers — via public transportation. The Expo Line will be the vein supporters from across the city will stream down on match day one and beyond.
The Team & Future
In the midst of all this, there was still a team to build. With an eye toward the future, soccer operations got started with the launch of the LAFC Academy, where it played in its first Generation Adidas Cup. Last year, the club cemented a partnership with Orange County SC of the USL where the first player signings Carlos Alvarez and Monday Etim spent the 2016-17 season on loan. LAFC’s most recent signing, Argentine striker Rodrigo Pacheco, joined them at OSCS from Lanús for the tail end of the USL season as well. Before putting a coach or a designated player on the list, LAFC found a home for their new training ground at Cal-Sate Los Angeles, where the Golden Eagle student population will be able to look forward to internship opportunities with the club. Finally — two years and nine months after its formation — Bob Bradley become the first coach in club history. Two weeks later, former Arsenal and Real Sociedad attacker, Carlos Vela, a key part of Mexico’s 2018 World Cup squad, became LAFC’s first Designated Player. The Bradley and Vela announcements were made at the Museum of Natural History and the California Science Center, amidst crowds as flush with club supporters as with members of the press.
Throughout the flurry of activity during the club’s important first 1,095 days, the one element that’s been front-and-center is the club’s supporters. Unlike a traditional, distant team/fan relationship, LAFC has looked to the supporters for guidance at every turn. The first town hall took place in May 2015, where club directors curated a discussion among burgeoning supporter groups about the club’s name, colors, and crest. After the stadium announcement, supporter groups met in the first of a few sessions with architecture and design firm Gensler to build the exact supporter section they wanted. The supporters-first approach extended to major club announcements — like the Bradley and Vela signings — which were emailed to club members before any press outlets. It hasn’t been all business either, with LAFC sponsoring supporter watch parties for Premier League, Champions League, and La Liga matches as well as in-the-stands presences at local Copa America, International Friendly, and Gold Cup ties. Supporters even organized an LAFC Dodgers night, bringing a large black-and-gold clad group to Chavez Ravine to sing and dance throughout a Dodger win. Of all the events, perhaps the lively Black & Gold rallies — culminating in the launch of independent supporters union "The 3252” — were the best indication of what’s to come when the club kicks off at Banc of California Stadium in 2018.
Well, most of my wish list is covered. With the food, the drinks and the music at the Banc of California stadium experience still on the horizon, I do have some last-gasp suggestions that will be coming soon.
LAFC — you’ve rewarded my faith. You’ve made a believer out of me. At this rate, I might even have to put a tattoo-needle to my flesh as promised.
On the day before Halloween three years ago — October 30, 2014 — a lot was different than it is now and we won’t even get into the non-sports side of things.
The Dodgers are battling for a World Series title. The Kings are off to the NHL’s best start. The Lakers have an exciting new face of the franchise. L.A. has two NFL teams. It’s as though the screenwriters have decided to give the next series of L.A. sports films happy endings.
Even club supporters who feel down that the USMNT failed to qualify for Russia 2018 have nothing to fear going into the new year.
I think I speak for nearly 20,000 LAFC members and the other 3251 supporters in the North End when I say, I look forward to what year four will be like for Los Angeles Football Club.
To quote those brilliant two words from the announcement three-years ago today: “Game on.”