After considerable anticipation for its debut, Banc of California Stadium hosted its first Los Angeles FC (LAFC) match on Sunday.
Leading up to the 2018 MLS season, Banc of California Stadium was met with a significant amount of attention. The $350-million facility was billed for a wide array of design features, including unique premium seating areas, and represents the first open-air stadium to be constructed in the City of Los Angeles since Dodger Stadium was completed in 1962. (Our own Jon Bruning previewed Banc of California Stadium earlier this year.)
Expansion LAFC played its first six games of the season on the road before hosting its home opener against Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday. The home opener proved to be a success, as 22,000 fans turned out to the see the premiere of the latest venue to hit the Los Angeles sports scene. With the home club playing to a 1-0 victory, the fans responded enthusiastically, as chronicled by Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times:
“The city of Los Angeles is now officially a soccer town!” shouted Mike Davis, 25, a digital producer standing next to the deafening North End supporters’ section. “Look around. This is South-Central, this is Mid-City, this is East L.A., this is all of us.”
And for a couple of hours, it was wonderful, Staples Center loud, Dodger Stadium crazy, the building beautiful and rowdy and perfect.
It ended in — what else? — Hollywood fashion when LAFC captain Laurent Ciman scored the winning goal on a knuckling free kick from 35 feet that bounced off the hands of Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei in stoppage time to give LAFC a 1-0 victory for its fifth win in seven games in its debut season.
Ciman ran wildly to the sidelines. Gold smoke poured from the stands. Fans waved flags and flapped pieces of shiny gold plastic. After the game ended, Ciman ran to the edge of the seats and led the cheers, and, as I’m writing this, 30 minutes later, the North End supporters section is still full and singing.
Banc of California Stadium is one of two new MLS stadiums that is slated to open during the 2018 season. The next MLS stadium opening is scheduled for July 14, when D.C. United hosts its first match at Audi Field.