Can you have a professional sports rivalry without competing in an official match?
Traditionalists would likely say no. And there’s probably a large group of fans outside the Los Angeles area that would agree.
But let the record show the LAFC-Galaxy rivalry officially began before the two clubs faced each other in MLS play.
Not with Carlos Vela or Giovani Dos Santos. Not even with Zlatan Ibrahimović. It started with a group of players years shy of driver’s licenses, some not even teenagers, and a dedicated group of Supporters.
Days before LAFC played the first match in Club history, I had a chance to ask John Thorrington if there was a moment he knew he was building something special in Los Angeles. After admitting it felt like there were milestones nearly every day on the job, Thornington eventually zeroed in on one moment.
A little over a year and half ago, before the Club signed a single player, even before it named Bob Bradley as its coach, Thorrington attended an LAFC Academy U-12 match against the Galaxy.
And Supporters were there.
Fast forward to Saturday. On a field just outside the confines of StubHub Center, where exactly one week later the senior team would officially kick off the LAFC-Galaxy rivalry, the LAFC Academy faced its Galaxy Academy rivals once again in U-12, U-13, and U-14 matches.
In those four matches, the Academy went undefeated. And, once again, the Supporters were there.
Under the watchful eye of the 3252, the LAFC Academy dominated play for large parts of each match.
There were passing movements of beauty. Goals a professional would be proud of. And individual performances that highlighted the work of the Academy staff and coaches, while giving a glimpse into the Club’s future.
And all of it capped off by the LAFC players joining Supporters in celebration and song after each victory over their rivals. Just like their senior counterparts have done in two matches so far this MLS season.
This is where the rivalry kicks off.
With the drums, songs, and chants of a community of Supporters dedicated to the growth of a Club from the lowest levels and up, this is how a rivalry not yet contested in MLS is already years in the making.
In that same conversation I had with Thorrington about moments, he went on to tell me that as a young man, he had to leave the U.S. to pursue his dream of playing soccer at the highest levels. It’s with that thought in mind that he continues to build LAFC every day. So that players growing up now in LA, stay in LA.
This weekend, the LAFC Academy embodied those plans to the fullest.