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Poe’s Perspective: LAFC does it better than other LA teams

first_imgLos Angeles has too many sports teams. It’s probably the only city to offer two options for every sport — Rams or Chargers, Lakers or Clippers, Dodgers or Angels. In a city this stuffed with superstars and national championship bids, it’s nearly impossible to carve out the space for a new team.This couldn’t be more true when it comes to soccer, the fourth-tier sport city’s (or perhaps even fifth or sixth, behind college football and basketball). Los Angeles has seen its fair share of failed soccer ventures — read up on Chivas USA if you need proof of this — and until this year, the hold of the Galaxy and its legion of edge-of-retirement headliners seemed too strong to break.But this season, all of that was proven wrong with the introduction of LAFC. The fledgling club was forced to take on a behemoth of the MLS in rooting itself into the Los Angeles sports culture. It was a David and Goliath story, one that the new team never won on the pitch when the two crosstown rivals met three times throughout the season.And yet, at the end of this season — as LAFC sits in second in the Western Conference, 9 points ahead of a Galaxy team that won’t make the playoffs — it feels as if the new kids won this round. It might be a little early to say this, but I’m going to go ahead and do it. LAFC is soccer in Los Angeles.It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what LAFC did right, but one scene from every home game stands out to me for some reason. In the moments leading up to kickoff, the team flaunts its mascot, Olly, a Red Naped Shaheen that zips around the stadium at 210 miles per hour. Each game, a different celebrity or member of the community holds Olly to begin this ceremony. Last week, it was Meghan Trainor. In weeks past, it was Sophia Bush, Ty Burrell. On the home opener, co-owner Will Ferrell emerged with the bird held high on his fist, screwing up his face in his notorious stank face while lifting his arm in a triumphant stance. And then, while Olly swoops along the stands, the Jumbotron features one of those video of the team, complete with aggressively epic music, to set the rhythm for the bird’s dips and drops.It’s stupid. I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but this ritual is stupid, and it’s exactly the reason that LAFC works so well. A lot of what makes sports great is also what makes it dumb — body paint, cheeseheads, ass slapping, turnover chains — you name it. Sports are silly and dumb and fun, and that’s the point. LAFC captured this spirit of fun, with all its silly excitement and boisterous chants. Perhaps it was best equipped to do so with Ferrell at the helm, attending games and offering support in his unique, witty way. The team leans firmly into the fun of the sport. It invites celebrity guests left and right, hosts fan events on a weekly basis to spur community interaction between players and fans. This team is tangible, accessible. If you wanted to this season, you could meet one of the the team’s leading goal-scorers, Adama Diomande, at an event at a dollar store. Walker Zimmerman, the heart of the team’s defense, regularly daylights as a cook at Pink’s Hot Dogs and Randy’s Donuts. LAFC might be made up of a deep roster of soon-to-be stars, but its emphasis on community involvement has allowed that stardom to feel human. In the end, it’s hard to break down every single thing that LAFC did right. On the field, it assembled a deep team led by two stars — Carlos Vela, a Mexican international player who drew wide support from the majority Latino population of downtown Los Angeles, and Diego Rossi, a 20-year-old who has already become the face of the club’s future.Off the field, the club invested in its people. This simple concept of approaching the community — “street by street, block by block” as one of the team’s slogans reads — shouldn’t feel groundbreaking, yet it was both refreshing and effective.After one last road game against Sporting KC on Sunday, LAFC will head into its first-.ever MLS playoffs. It will bring a fearsome attack, bolstered by Rossi, Vela and Diomande. But more importantly, the team will bring a fierce fanbase, one that will prepare for victory and remain loyal through defeat.No matter the outcome of the postseason, LAFC has won something greater than a championship in its inaugural season. The team has won over Los Angeles.Julia Poe is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “Poe’s Perspective,” runs Thursdays.last_img read more