I’m not going to lie, we get just as excited as you.
The moment a preliminary 2019 schedule made its way to the inbox of a fellow co-worker, all other conversations stopped. We gathered around as he pulled it up on his phone – sure, we could have had it emailed to us to look at on our own computers, but as I said, we were excited. Immediately, talk of tough stretches, away trips, and can’t-miss matches dominated the next hour or so.
With the 2019 MLS Schedule out and single match tickets available for purchase, I've been thinking about the matches I'd put my money down to see in 2019. Of course, every match is important in the grand scheme of things. But there always a few, whether by history, matchups, or other, just seem a bit bigger than others - and you can't miss 'em.
With the season just a shade under three weeks away, here are the six matches I, absolutely, without a doubt, am pumped for in 2019 – in no particular order:
Sporting KC at Banc of California Stadium – Sunday, March 3 at 5:00pm
Six matches on the road awaited LAFC at the start of its inaugural season. A home opener is a welcome change in 2019. And it just so happens to be against the only opposing side to steal three points from Banc of California Stadium.
This match fits squarely in the revenge category for LAFC. After losing to SKC in its only home loss of the season, LAFC missed out on the conference’s top spot in a Decision Day loss to Peter Vermes’ team. As of writing this, SKC looks to have reloaded for 2019 with the acquisition of Kelyn Rowe via a trade, as well as the signings of Rodney Wallace and Botond Barath.
SKC still lack a true finisher through the middle of the pitch and will be heading to LA on the back of a Concacaf Champions League trip to Mexico during midweek, but as home openers go, they don’t get much bigger.
FC Cincinnati at Banc of California Stadium – Saturday, April 13 at 7:30pm
April brings LAFC a chance to welcome the new kids to MLS.
Despite FC Cincinnati’s status as an expansion team, there are some interesting MLS veterans in its ranks. Fanendo Adi leads the attack with Kendall Waston and Greg Garza in defense.
Last season, LAFC set the standard for expansion teams in the regular season with 57 points. FC Cincinnati will get an up close and personal look at what that standard is like early in its maiden MLS voyage.
Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium – Saturday, March 23 at 7:30pm
Does a victory against the team that knocked you out of the playoffs last season heal old wounds? No. But it doesn’t hurt either.
In two regular season matches against RSL, LAFC looked nearly untouchable. Then the Black & Gold dominated play in its first-ever playoff match. But a karate kick and an own goal undid LAFC on the night. And to this day, those things just don’t seem to compute for me - especially, when you consider RSL’s three goals in that playoff match came off a total of two shots on target (Bitter much? Maybe)
Either way, I’m looking forward to hosting RSL early in 2019.
Atlanta United at Banc of California Stadium – Saturday, July 27 at 5:00pm
A bit of a friendly rivalry has been brewing with Atlanta since LAFC entered MLS play.
Both play an exciting, attacking brand of football, boast some of the best in-stadium atmospheres in MLS, and field sides with superior technical skill. Atlanta is, of course, the MLS Cup holders after just its second MLS season. And they hung a 5-0 loss on LAFC in Atlanta in 2018.
If LAFC wants to demonstrate its ability to take the next step after its stellar inaugural season, this would be the match to do it. All of MLS will be watching.
LAFC at Dignity Health Sports Park – Friday, July 19 at 7:00pm
Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium – Sunday, August 25 at 7:00pm
It’s the derby.