I watch a lot of soccer. Well, when there are games regularly, I watch a lot of games. These days I’m reading novels and walking my dog a lot.
But generally I watch so much soccer and so many different teams that I’m a passive observer most of the time. Watch the game, register the good plays, move onto the next one.
But it’s different when it comes to Los Angeles Football Club. At the stadium I hold it together in the press box, minus some probably odd squeezing of my fists and muttering under my breath, but at home I get into it. Clapping for goals, yelling, I get into it.
Back in 2018, LAFC’s introduction MLS made me cry repeatedly, but for good reasons. The first game, I was mostly dazed, but I shed a tear watching them kick off, after waiting four years for them to come along.
At the first home game, I cried in the minutes before the first goal as the entire crowd spontaneously chanted “LA! FC!” which was just a hint at the fantastic atmosphere that would blossom at The Banc.
But I want to tell you a story of another time I cried while watching LAFC in 2018.
At the time, I worked during games, my partner worked late into the night, and we have a daughter. At this point in time she was 4 years old, old enough to have some awareness of the world around her but still very much in her own world.
She coined the phrase “Black Thunder” as her nickname for LAFC, which we still use all the time in my household and I hope still catches on around the club. She knew Mama had a soccer team that was different than all the others she constantly watched, she got excited and stuff over Black Thunder.
So here’s the scene, it’s August 8, 2018, LAFC are in Texas to play the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal. If they win, they’re in the final, with a shot to win their first-ever trophy, in their first season.
I’m a big fan of the U.S. Open Cup. The format, the history, the different levels competing against each other, it’s a ton of fun and following a team progress through the tournament is a special thrill. For some reason those midweek Open Cup games are the ones I look forward to the most when my team is making a deep run.
So back to the game, Diego Rossi gave LAFC an early lead on the road. But Houston came back quickly to make it 1-1. By the 75th minute, the Dynamo were ahead 3-1, but one player in particular would not settle, and that was Rossi.
He scored his second goal in the 78th minute to make it 3-2. Then he scored the equalizer in the 95th minute.
Here’s the full hat trick:
That third goal is one of the weirder ones you’ll ever see — a bloop attempted clearance by a goalkeeper goes to the player beyond the far post, who doesn’t fire his header towards goal, which would inevitably get blocked, but instead floats it high and under the crossbar, beating everyone. All in the 95th minute.
So when that third goal went in, me finishing a recap saying LAFC had lost, glumly getting ready to press the publish button when the full time whistle blew, when I saw that goal go in I screamed. My daughter came running, and I remember hugging her as tightly as I could and crying out of happiness. It was a deeply weird moment but one of those times when emotion just overcomes you and you let it roll.
I thought this had to be LAFC’s night, surely Rossi’s incredible performance would not be for naught. But...LAFC lost in the eventual shootout, 7-6, and the Open Cup dream had died for 2018.
Typically, when I cry over sports it’s because of a loss, or a Big Symbol like a new stadium or whatever. This was just a moment in time, when it seemed like your team couldn’t be stopped, even though they were ultimately stopped in this one just 30 minutes later.
But I like thinking about that moment too, because I am modeling a type of fandom for my daughter. I’m not a trash talker, I tend to be pretty laid back in general and reserved usually as a fan. But getting to yell and laugh and cry is a reason why we follow sports, right? And showing it’s ok for a mom to like sports, for your mom to like sports, to jump up and down and shriek while watching the team is healthy for a child to see.
So yeah, I cried when Diego Rossi scored that goal, but I was so happy at that moment. And I shared it with my kid, and it’s why I look back so fondly on that moment in general. Because sometimes tears can be joyful and help us feel alive, together, even when we’re watching our team from far away.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.