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Why I’m a fan of LAFC

A personal reflection from Angels on Parade’s managing editor.

Two things I love: Soccer and tacos.
Alicia Rodriguez

Welcome to the refreshed Angels on Parade! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. We’re collecting all of the stories here. Come Fan With Us!

Every fan story is unique. Some, however, are far more circuitous than others.

I’ve shared much of my fan story over the years on this very website, but if you’re a new reader of Angels on Parade or aren’t interested in going through the site archive, here’s a condensed version of my history:

I moved to California from Michigan in 2005 for school. A lifelong Detroit sports fan, I was not interested in switching allegiances in any of the sports I already had teams for, but Detroit did not have an MLS team.

I fell in love with soccer during the 1994 World Cup. I didn’t know the first thing about it until that tournament, and then I learned, by fits and starts, as the years went on. I followed soccer before soccer was really on TV (and I didn’t have a fancy cable package growing up).

So, moving out to California, I decided I would pick an MLS team. I had a choice: LA Galaxy or Chivas USA? The Galaxy won a title in 2005, which I watched on TV, while Chivas USA were just getting started. My blue-collar roots left me feeling uncomfortable picking the bandwagon team, so I went with the brand new project in Chivas USA.

At first, that was a good decision! The team was actually good from 2006-09, with two coaches winning MLS Coach of the Year and a small group of young stars to pair with wily veterans.

And went downhill. In 2011, I started writing for this site, a few months after it launched as The Goat Parade. Before long, I had thrown myself headlong into covering this team on a daily basis. That continued for the next four years, as Chivas USA went from being sort of mediocre-bad to unbelievably bad, and on top of it there was a disastrous ownership change, lack of investment in anything related to the club, and the rot was unstoppable.

The unthinkable happened in Oct. 2014 — Chivas USA folded completely. By that point, the writing was on the wall, but losing the team I had poured so much time and effort into, only for it to just disappear, was devastating. While my professional life — covering soccer for a living! — was better than ever, my fandom took a blow that was devastating, and even now, more than two and a half years later, it’s still hard to spend any time thinking about it. Teams aren’t supposed to disappear! Yes, I know the sports landscape is littered with that happening in the past, but in 2014? Still shocking.

And here we come to LAFC. I’m well aware that some readers (probably more like those who won’t read this website, actually) think my previous connections to Chivas USA “taint” any association to LAFC, which is sad. It goes to show just how horrendous that organization was, that people who merely rooted for the team only to see it go out of business have been stigmatized, too.

The same week that Chivas USA shut down, Los Angeles Football Club was born. They wanted a clean break from Chivas USA, which was hard to hear but in hindsight looks like the right call. They’re building a stadium — something that was cruelly waved in front of Chivas USA fans’ faces over the years with no progress whatsoever.

Most agonizing from a personal perspective, they didn’t want to play right away, instead choosing to have the stadium lined up and making sure they did things “the right way.” Given the context of another failed team, that’s prudent. But the fan in me was miserable, as someone absolutely hooked on watching actual soccer.

After initially saying they would start playing in 2017 (this year!) they later decided to wait three seasons, and begin play in 2018. Three. Seasons. It’s been an eternity, frankly.

What’s the upshot here? I sound pretty downtrodden, don’t I? I realize that.

But I think two things of being an LAFC fan should provide a bright ending to a pretty somber story. First, I think the future of LAFC actually coming together has kept me engaged. I know a lot of people who turned their backs on MLS, either in 2014 or before, and as a fan, I might have shut that part of my heart forever if there wasn’t the promise of something, and something that ought to be much, much better at that.

And that’s the second thing that is uplifting. I originally chose to root for Chivas USA because I wanted to get in near the beginning. I wanted to be around in the early days, to see the project blossom, to witness the firsts, see the improvements, cherish the memories, make friends.

I’ve already made many friends, and look forward to meeting more. But LAFC is a rare opportunity at a second chance. Last time, I got in near the beginning, moving in the middle of the debut season. This time, I really was there at the very beginning, following this team from the very second it was announced. I was there from the first piece of foundation in this new club, and I look forward to seeing it grow, flourish, and really turn out to be a team that I can be truly proud of, and one that won’t come with a bizarre stench seeming to stigmatize me and those like me at every turn.

But mostly, I cannot wait for the soccer to start in 2018. The first win will probably cause my heart to burst, but I am greedily awaiting that day. It’s why I’m a fan of LAFC.

What do you think? What is your story? Leave a comment below or write a FanPost now!

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