Covering sports is an interesting venture. One that is even more interesting in a city like Los Angeles. Unlike most cities, covering a sport in LA often means you'll be talking about both sides of any given rivalry, unless of course you choose to only cover one specific team. Basketball for example, would have you talking about Lakers and Clippers. NFL now has the Super Bowl Champion Rams, along with the awkwardly arriving Chargers. Then of course, in the MLS you have the gold standard LA Galaxy, having to contend with that new car smell of LAFC and the popularity they've experienced in their short history.
As someone who covers soccer in this incredible city, can confirm the last one is often a real doozy. Personally, I told myself time and time again I would never bring up the MLS rivalry when talking Angel City. To me, one league’s rivalry should have absolutely zero affect on what happens in another league. However, in sports — especially when rivals are involved —rational thoughts are often hard to come by. This was unfortunately proven somewhat true early on in Angel City’s existence. As new teams tend to do, ACFC showed support for LA soccer, sending out a fairly innocent tweet about being excited for LAFC as they competed in the Concacaf Champions League. That went about as well as things do in the online world, with many calling the team out for “picking sides.”
It was something I wrote and spoke openly about seeing happen. From the start my feeling was that ACFC should be a team supported by all of LA, to truly be a team the entire city could come together for. Warning against alienating half of the city’s footy fans while trying to build an identity and cultivate community. In fairness, something else not seen online too much, ACFC did do their fair share of posting about Galaxy whenever they played.
Why bring all this up you ask? Partly because, as the inaugural season for Angel City sits just weeks away from kicking off, it’s important to revisit these things. Especially as the team has successfully created an identity of their own off the pitch, while signing stars and class players to help build one on it. Mostly, I bring all this up because of something that happened this weekend during the return of MLS. A heartwarming reminder that online isn't real life, and that more times than not, the best way to really get a feel for something happening in a city, is to be out in the community, talking to folk.
Which is precisely what happened last weekend for MLS is Back. See, this is my first full season covering LA Galaxy (fourth for LAFC), and as is typical for any event in the area, I donned my Angel City FC mask. Not only is a super sweet way to stay safe, it often helped spark conversation, bringing in opportunity to gush about the new team in the city and how everyone should watch all things NWSL from now on. Forever. Even still, I was pleasantly surprised at the reception it got during my first Galaxy home game at Dignity Health.
A handful of stadium workers, as well as fans, came up to talk about their excitement for the club. Asking about the schedule, when the team would start play, what the roster — beyond the household name of USWNT star and LA native Christen Press — looked like. Some joked that the only negative was having to watch them from The Banc (LAFC’s home stadium), but that they couldn't wait to make trips not only to support Angel City, but to get into the atmosphere of the NWSL. For many, this is a new venture, the world of women’s soccer, or woso.
One person in particular, a young man who worked at DHS, mentioned how working at the stadium sparked a love for soccer that had begun to dwindle. He spoke on wanting to branch out and support other local teams and was excitedly learning more about Angel City. What really hit home was when he said “The rivalry (LAFC and Galaxy) is all good and I get the hate, but I just love the game. I think soccer is such a beautiful sport and it’s all love. The culture here in LA is the best, so for me, I just love watching the games, taking it all in.”
I couldn't agree with that more. It’s weird, none of that day should've been surprising. There are a bunch of G’s who are members not just of the ACFC supporter groups, but who were part of the original campaign to get NWSL to LA in the first place. Yet, there I was, feeling all warm and tingly by the time the match started, because I just didn't expect that sort of response in Carson. Not with how ACFC has slightly leaned into their loose partnership with LAFC. It didn't give hope, as much as it provided comfort. A feeling of, this is going to be great, heading into the inaugural season.
A reminder that while the loudest fill up the Twitter comments, those rarely account for the true sentiment. Sure, maybe in time LA will do what it tends to do and add another NWSL side to compete for the love of the city, but for now Angel City FC is that team. The club who is here to represent all of LA. It would be a travesty to let a petty rivalry from another league, keep you from supporting something genuinely special. Don't miss the chance to help build greatness. Don't miss out on history.
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