This weekends’ MLS action was dominated by Los Angeles FC finally making an appearance at home. The Banc of California stadium (purpose-built soccer arena) finally played host in a tough fixture against the Seattle Sounders, the long-standing franchise from the Pacific North West and 2016 MLS Cup winners, after playing their first six fixtures on the road.
Traditionally one of the largest media markets within the US, Los Angeles FC have put themselves in direct competition with LA Galaxy, a franchise well known for investing in aging quality veterans from abroad, and by investing in an outstanding facility. They look to be taking the competition very seriously.
In an interesting homecoming ‘Stepbrothers’ actor Will Ferrell (starred in UNICEF All-Star game at Old Trafford home of Manchester United) read out both team sheets…including such information that starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller enjoys a premeal of ‘just chicken’, a unique start to the team’s inaugural match up in their new home.
The game was a close one. The Sounders were thoroughly beaten on the road in the first game of the season 0-3 against Dallas and came back to frustrate the home team and vocal supporters. However, the game was won in the dying embers as the Sounders goalkeeper made a hideous error by palming into his own net a 25-yard freekick from Belgium center back Laurent Ciman. Glorious scenes were then witnessed on both the touchline and in the stands.
Atlanta United have some explaining to do. Not since the domineering years of Landon Donovan and David Beckham at the LA Galaxy has one franchise made such impression on world soccer. Atlanta, who plays their home games at the home of the NFL Atalanta Falcons, has continuously been able to deliver (especially at home) outstandingly attractive attacking football. Often in soccer, it can backfire by scoring the first goal; ‘waking the beast’ springs to mind and this certainly happened in Atlanta as the visitors, Montreal, scored first. It was lovely work by American fullback Chris Duvall penetrating down the right angle in the perfect cross for the arriving Algerian Taider, who leaped full length to meet the ball with a diving header. Unfortunately for Montreal this was as good as it would get. An impressive crowd of 45000 were stunned into silence as the goal in the 13 minutes went completely against the run of play.
The Atlanta midfield worked tirelessly to no avail and it certainly looked like the visitors would go away with an unlikely three points. Fortunately for Atlanta, they once again upped the tempo and by doing so the Montreal defense crumbled under relentless pressure and once they had conceded in the 70th minute from deep forward Almiron. Montreal completely imploded, conceding a further three goals in the final 12 minutes to cap off a vintage fightback performance.