The Los Angeles Galaxy have long been the namesake franchise within the city. Since its conception in 1994, the squad has been a staple within MLS. It’s won one CONCACAF Champions League title and five MLS Cups during its existence.
Without question, the Galaxy are considered one of the most successful franchises in league history. One would think they’d be the it team in the city of Los Angeles. However, that’s simply not the case. It appears as if the Galaxy are running second place popularity-wise behind a team that’s yet to play a competitive match.
Newly minted MLS franchise LAFC (Los Angeles Football Club) is taking the city of Los Angeles by storm. There’s a buzz surrounding this team that simply hasn’t existed otherwise. When fully delving into the excitement, there’s a number of reasons for it.
Much of it has to do with luck. Soccer has never been more popular in the United States. Children — especially in Los Angeles — are playing the sport at unprecedented levels. The ownership group is capitalizing greatly upon this fortuitous timing. There’s a real grassroots effort to integrate the entire city. The Galaxy’s home stadium (StubHub Center) is located outside of the greater Los Angeles area.
When touring LAFC’s headquarters, a concerted effort is made with outreach programs to all neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The aim is geared towards truly making this franchise the local club as opposed to one simply utilizing the location’s name (such as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).
The actual logo itself is both sharp and sleek. Part of the city shield is displayed within the art deco black and gold presentation. Duly the ‘City of Angels’ moniker is represented with a wing-like feature on the “A”.
Within the ownership group, there’s no shortage of power — as the likes of Will Ferrell, Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Vincent Tan, Nomar Garciaparra, and Tony Robbins are all involved. Ferrell in particular has been instrumental in showcasing some of the top new talent.
Speaking of talent, the team went out and hired arguably the greatest American head coach of all-time in Bob Bradley. An accomplished manager from his time in the United States, Africa and Europe, Bradley will look to implement a structured — yet attractive style of soccer. With a figurehead of Bradley’s ilk brought in at the top, the rest of the roster needed configuring.
The top name unequivocally within the group is Carlos Vela. The Mexican international starred in both Spain and England before coming across the pond. At only 28 years of age, Vela is just set to hit his prime. Garnering a roster chock-full of pedigree was significant. As such, the front office went out and acquired Luis Lopez (Honduras), Omar Gaber (Egypt), Marco Urena (Costa Rica), Laurent Ciman (Beligum), Steven Beitashour (Iran), and Benny Feilhaber — all players with international experience.
Needing a jolt of youth, LAFC went out and pegged 19-year-old Diego Rossi as a major signing. The Uruguayan is a highly promising player — and one the team figures to give them plenty of bite in the attacking final third. American defender Walker Zimmerman pairs with Ciman to form a rock-solid duo in the heart of the defense. Duly, 21-year-old speedster Latif Blessing and No. 1 Overall pick João Moutinho figure to be integral for success this year.
Then, there’s also Banc of California Stadium — the state-of-the-art 22,000-seat soccer-facility built right in the shadow of the DTLA skyline. Crafted to mimic the best facilities in Europe, this arena will be a jewel within the landscape of MLS.
Let us set aside the proverbial bells and whistles of the franchise. We know the aesthetics will be spectacular — from the uniforms to the stadium. However, the vision is what helps to set LAFC apart from rival clubs — and even fellow expansion sides.
A ton of money is being pumped into this project. Youth academies are being built up quite extensively. In a perfect world, these youth sides will be a feeder program to the senior group. Understanding the vast talent pool made available in Los Angeles, LAFC is doing everything in its power to cultivate and eventually grow the said talent.
In a sense, it’s akin to what Atlanta FC has managed to accomplish. The prominent theme above everything is having a solid infrastructure in place. As opposed to relying upon older, bigger names, Atlanta FC has instead hit South America hard — poaching young and exciting talent. These players are then able to perform without the threat of spending large spells of time planted on the sidelines. Assuming these players play up to their potential, the club can then look to sell these players abroad for a hefty return.
Despite what many want to say, it’ll be a long time until MLS teams have the purchasing power of a Manchester United or a Real Madrid. Instead, it can become a selling-type league. This isn’t a bad idea in the slightest. For some of the smaller leagues in Europe (Netherlands), selling promising young talent enables clubs to further enhance infrastructure with the incoming money. It’s a cycle which caters to the young player — something a growing league must latch onto for increases in popularity. While it may be exciting for a casual fan to witness a huge name from Europe compete in MLS, what good is it if they’re over-the-hill and unenthusiastic? For as fantastic as he was throughout his entire career, Andrea Pirlo’s time in New York epitomizes this premise perfectly.
LAFC’s current roster is a nice mix of experienced veterans and younger talent. With a few weeks until the season starts, the front office continues to tinker with its talent. An international signing may be announced any day now. While Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s name has been bandied about as a possibility, one cannot rule out Portuguese international André André — or even 21-year-old midfielder Andre Horta.
Regardless, LAFC appears to be being built for long-term success. Don’t expect the franchise to chase a player based solely on name recognition. Instead, it will be methodical in attempting to build a winner. With all of the necessary resources at its disposal, LAFC looks to be a fixture for a very long time.
Image Sources: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports