LA versus LA: Rivalry or Ruse

Featured Image courtesy LA Galaxy

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Toeing the Line as an LA Soccer Fan

by Carrie Rapaport @newt_ripley

I’ve been a soccer fan since I was a kid. Before the start of the current season, I made the unconventional choice to support BOTH Los Angeles MLS teams – LA Galaxy and LAFC. Though I’ve balanced my affection fairly well, I’ve been told repeatedly this is an impossibility due to the inherent rivalry between them – I should just pick one and stick with it.

Should I pick only one? Is it a true rivalry? Well, if Don Garber says so…yes. If LA Galaxy social media says so…no – it’s business as usual. What’s stuck out for me this season are some of the arguments as to why I should root for one team over the other:

LEGACY: Does the slogan “Since 1996” matter? For me, no. Like many LA residents, I’m a transplant…“Since 2005”. Before coming here, the LA Galaxy was something I vaguely knew about, and only because that guy from “Melrose Place” played for them at some point.

What about for the thousands of supporters who have created lasting memories with their families, attended matches at the Rose Bowl, and witnessed the arrival of David Beckham and a new logo? Absofrigginlutely YES, that legacy matters. There is something to be said about history, and sticking with your team through thick and thin. Even if Carlo Cudicini is in goal.

LAFC might be the new kid on the block, but they have done a superb job of — well, to be frank, just about everything in its inaugural season. They’ve built a rabid fan base from the ground up by tapping into communities the Galaxy marketing team has arguably ignored for years. Their winning record suggests they might be around for a very long time.

THE “CHIVAS 2.0” ARGUMENT: What’s in a name? Is LAFC simply an unnecessary reboot of an ultimately forgettable franchise, or does this team offer something new?

Let’s take an honest look:

  1. Bob Bradley – A formidable leader/human bloodhound who can sniff out talent better than most. He’s also a familiar face to Chivas USA fans, as Bradley coached the Goats during the 2006 season and led them to a third-place finish in the Western Conference— OK. Bad example.
  2. Black and Gold – You’ve seen the home jersey. You’ve heard the “LA…is Black and Gold!” chants. But if you’ve been around for a while, those kits might evoke memories of what I still believe to be the most glorious 3rd kit to date: The 2011-12 Punjab Blue, which the Galaxy often wore during their matches against Chivas— OK. Another bad example.
  3. Fans – Yes. Many LAFC fans supported Chivas USA when they were part of MLS. It is what it is. Other fans supported the Galaxy. Some still do, as evidenced by the smattering of black and gold LAFC hats popping up around the StubHub Center (and don’t say you’re there to troll – if you’re really there just to heckle the Gs, you just spent bunch of money to be outnumbered by Galaxy fans).

Listen, gone are the days of Chivas’ dismal seasons, with attendances so sparse, the entire north side of Home Depot Center was regularly covered in tarp. Right now, at ANY home match, The 3252, packed shoulder-to-shoulder in Banc of California Stadium’s safe standing section, can be heard cheering loudly all the way from the Expo Line. The numbers are good and show little sign of falling off, especially during the upcoming Playoff season. Oh yeah – PLAYOFFS. Chivas USA neglected to qualify for playoffs for the last five seasons of its existence, while, in their first year, LAFC nearly became Conference Champs.

Legacy or not, there’s room in a large, metropolitan area for two teams. The Red Bulls and NYCFC proved this last year in New York.  The Galaxy and LAFC have reinforced it this season.

“IT’S CARSON, NOT LA!”: Though I’ve lived in Hollywood for the last 11 years, I will be moving to Tarzana in three weeks. I can no longer write “Los Angeles, CA” on my return address, but feel no less part of the city. LAFC’s use of the tired “Carson” moniker to agitate Galaxy fans is weak ammunition at best. The Red Bulls don’t care that they play in New Jersey, not New York. They’re too busy polishing their third Supporters Shield. If LA means “Our City”, you’d better believe that includes Carson, too. Division also serves to alienate potential LAFC supporters who currently live in the South Bay. Don’t get cocky, kids.

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Rivalries, in my opinion, are completely arbitrary and subjective. I realize this opinion ensures I will never work in marketing for a sports team. However, their existence means I’m able to watch more soccer. As an unapologetic idealist, I believe it’s easy to see the differences in people, yet hard at times to recognize their similarities. As an MLS Fantasy player, I’ve learned to appreciate individual players over the years, which has softened my hardline stance on other teams being “the enemy”. If fans aren’t violent towards each other, smashing beer coolers, or defacing and breaking stadium property, I say bring on the rivalries, the Twitter wars, the Reddit banter. And yes, by all means, bring on that glorious tifo at “El Tráfico” matches.

As for me, I’m hanging my Blessing jersey next to my Ibrahimovic poster.

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