LAFC Open Banc of California Stadium with Last-Gasp Win

Andres Martinez

April 29 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) won its first ever game at Banc of California Stadium 1-0 against the Seattle Sounders. Laurent Ciman, captain of LAFC, capped off an exceptional homecoming by scoring a game-winning goal with less than a minute left in the match.

Prepared to walk home after a scoreless match up, Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s stoppage-time error from Ciman’s long-range free kick gave LAFC fans the greenlight to celebrate its first-ever goal scored on home soil. A feat that was nice to get off their chest on the inaugural night rather than wait until the next game.

Following the final whistle was an exuberant coming together between LAFC players and staff in front of the 3252, LAFC’s supporters section that is perched in a standing-only section behind the North-end’s goal.

Manager Bob Bradley spoke to the media post game and mentioned that the Black and Gold were taken care of by “the soccer Gods” who were looking down on Banc of California Stadium that night.

“It’s nice to not have to inaugurate this incredible, new stadium and those fans with a 0-0. So maybe someone was looking down on us.” Bradley said, “So we take our 1-0, and we’re proud of it.”

The first six games LAFC played were all on the road. During that trek, the Black and Gold went 4-2 to earn 12 out of a possible 18 points and comfortably sit in playoff contention early in the season without having played a single game in front of its own supporters.

Now, two months after playing its first ever Major League Soccer match in Seattle, LAFC handled its homecoming game against the same opponents in spectacular fashion. The Sounders came into this game ready for vengeance after LAFC’s 1-0 victory in the Pacific Northwest on March 4, yet the Black and Gold never flinched.

The match had everything. Tackles were flying from the start, both teams were delightful on the ball, the defenses looked strong, and each offense showed promise in the attacking third that lacked a finishing touch.

The teams were hard to separate and play was congested in the center of the park, largely in part due to the robust styles that were counter-acting against one another. Ciman’s leadership and powerful display at the back cancelled out Seattle’s bullies, midfielder’s Cristian Roldan and Osvaldo Alonso, who were looking to leave a strong foot on any LAFC player looking to advance with the ball, especially LAFC forward Carlos Vela.

“I think it was clear what was going on. It doesn’t take much to figure out that a lot goes through [Vela] and that now he’s going to be targeted. And you just have to make sure that at a certain point it’s controlled. I thought it was five, someone else told me four but I thought there were a number of fouls in the first half just on him. The first one where [a Seattle defender] grabbed him around the neck and so I don’t think the game was clamped down early enough.” Bradley said.

Despite Seattle’s plot to agitate LAFC’s stars, the Black and Gold’s character and nous throughout the match made it seem as if the home team were league veterans. And with the help of the fans who never stopped singing, it was the players, staff, and fans that created their own luck when Frei’s mistake was all that seperated the teams.

The stadium erupted the moment the ball rippled the net while Ciman and co. celebrated advantageously near the home bench.

Up next is another home match that will help the 3252 and every other LAFC supporter get accustomed to its new home, this time against FC Dallas on Cinco de Mayo with a 1 p.m. kickoff.