We’re finally here, on the cusp of Los Angeles Football Club’s first ever game in MLS.
Being an expansion team in MLS isn’t quite like being an expansion team in other American sports. You aren’t limited to just signing players from an expansion draft, or free agents not wanted by other teams.
You can sign good quality players internationally, if your owner is willing to spend money, and if you have good management scouting the right players. Still, being an expansion team is hard, and it can be challenging to get off to a good start in MLS.
We here at Angels on Parade wanted to take a look back at the last few expansion teams to enter MLS, and see how they did in their first games. Spoiler alert: Not great!
Atlanta United (2-1 loss)
We start with Atlanta United, the darlings of MLS last year, and one of the two teams to enter MLS as expansion teams in 2017.
Atlanta had a great season last year, but people may not remember they actually lost their first game at home, 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls (This was before Mercedes-Benz stadium was finished, and Atlanta United were playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium).
Atlanta grabbed a lead early through Yamil Asad, and had it until late on, when they gave up two goals in the last 15 minutes to ultimately lose 2-1. Still, the story of this game was not so much the result as the performance by the players, as well as the fans.
No one was sure what the support for Atlanta United would be like, but they came strong from day one, and kept that up throughout the season.
We’d like a win obviously, but if LAFC’s first game was like Atlanta’s, a close loss to one of the best teams in the league, it wouldn’t be the worst result in the world, as the next example demonstrates.
Minnesota United (5-1 loss)
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Atlanta United’s spirited-if-losing performance was Minnesota United, the other 2017 expansion team.
Unlike Atlanta, Minnesota United started off on the road, in Portland against the Timbers (Hmm...another expansion team starting on the road in Cascadia).
Minnesota United did not have a great MLS debut, losing 5-1 in Portland.
Believe it or not, but Minnesota United held up ok most of the game, only down 2-1 going into the 80th minute. But then the flood gates opened and Minnesota gave up three more goals before the game ended.
This game, combined with a 6-1 loss to Atlanta United a week later, ensured a nightmare start in the league for Minnesota United. Safe to say LAFC hope to avoid a debut like that one.
New York City Football Club and Orlando City SC (1-1 draw)
The previous expansion teams before last year actually faced off against each other in their first ever MLS match, NYCFC and Orlando City back in 2015.
They were two different types of expansion teams, NYCFC sprang from City Football Group, and had players like David Villa, Frank Lampard (not available for the first game, as he was playing in Manchester) and Andrea Pirlo (who joined later in the season).
Orlando City were a successful USL team for years before making the jump to MLS. They had Kaká, but he was their only megawatt star to NYCFC’s trio.
The game in Orlando was a back-and-forth affair, with NYCFC getting on the board first with a goal by Mix Diskerud (remember him?), but Orlando scored a dramatic stoppage time equalizer via a Kaká free kick that took a deflection.
Neither team made the playoffs in 2015, but a draw was a decent debut for both teams.
So what does this mean for LAFC?
Well, they will certainly hope to avoid the start that Minnesota United had, but beyond that i think these results prove that it is hard for expansion teams to win their first game in the league.
Hopefully LAFC can break that trend with their game on Sunday in Seattle.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!