In this April 26, 2018, photo workers prepare the playing field at Banc of California Stadium for its official opening Sunday, April 29, and the upcoming home debut of Los Angeles Football Club. The MLS expansion team built its $350 million new home in about 18 months, using cutting-edge design to create a throwback feel for the new club's fans. (AP Photo/Greg Beacham)
In its highly-anticipated home opener, LAFC rematches with the Seattle Sounders, a team it defeated in stunning style to start its inaugural season.
In the teams’ first meeting, LAFC secured a 1-0 win thanks to an early goal from Diego Rossi and a standout performance from goalkeeper Tyler Miller. But the Sounders were missing key starters due to Concacaf Champions League play and injuries.
Sunday’s rematch will see Seattle at full force, with Clint Dempsey and Chad Marshall returning to the helm. And in its first debut on its home turf, LAFC will have everything on the line. Despite the fact that Seattle has fallen to the bottom of the Western conference, while LAFC has risen to the No. 3 spot with four road wins, this match will be a high-energy must-win from start to finish for both teams.
For LAFC, the game will be a homecoming in a city that has welcomed the team with open arms. For months, fans have traveled to away games, packed StubHub Center for the Galaxy game and cheered for the team from watch parties throughout Los Angeles. Now, black-and-gold supporters will pack the sold-out stadium to see their team play on its home field for the first time. It’s a rare occasion for players to participate in, one filled with firsts — the first kickoff, the first goal scored, the first win or loss on this field. For the players involved, it’s a special moment, too.
“It feels great to be home,” LAFC defender Steven Beitashour said. “It’s something we’ve been waiting a long time for. Six games on the road, it’s been tough. The time is here.”
Although starting the season with six straight road games was difficult, LAFC came out of the opening stretch with a strong showing. The team’s four road wins is more than many MLS teams notched in the whole season last year.
Carlos Vela stood out in each win, notching five goals and assisting or scoring in all but one game so far this season. Vela quickly became the face of this LAFC team. The Sounders defense likely will rotate around him throughout the game.
However, last game’s victory over Montreat relied on an offense efficiency that came from a balanced attack. Four LAFC players scored, with an own-goal by the Impact adding a fifth tally to the LAFC score. If Seattle attempts to over-rotate too much to accommodate for Vela on the attack, LAFC has plenty of weapons to counter with, including Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, Laurent Ciman and Benny Feilhaber.
With their first home game nearing, the players’ focus was somewhat split. Every member of the roster fielded questions and participated in promotions for the newly-opened Banc of California stadium. But now that game day is finally here, it’s time to get back to what this team does best — playing soccer. Sunday will be a chance to show the LAFC faithful how much they have to get excited about.
Who: LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders
When: 6 p.m. PST
Where: Banc of California Stadium
How to follow: Watch on FS1; Listen on ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
LAFC record: 4-0-2
Seattle record: 1-1-3
Last LAFC game: Despite a first-half hat trick from Montreal striker Ignacio Piatti, LAFC stormed back for a 5-3 finish to clinch a winning record on the road to open the season. Ciman, Blessing, Feilhaber and Vela all netted goals in the win.
Last Seattle game: The Sounders finally picked up their first win of the season against Minnesota last Sunday in a 3-1 victory. Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin picked up goals in the first half, and Jordy Delem sealed the win with a stoppage-time score.
LAFC predicted starting roster: Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Laurent Ciman, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour; Mark-Anthony Kaye, Benny Feilhaber; Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing; Marco Ureña