The last weekend of March was host to the first ever El Trafico, the nascent name for contests between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer newbies LAFC as each fights for supremacy in the City of Angels.
Despite the expansion team starting the season with two successive road victories (a new MLS record) and the match itself with three back to back to back goals, Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show in a 20 minute cameo that featured an audacious volley from nigh on 40 yards and a game winning header in the dying seconds to give the Carson, California based team an epic victory that will live forever in sporting folklore.
Despite LAFC capitulating in its first ever big time match against its big brother in the league, the club still has much more to look forward to. This week marks the opening of its dedicated training center, built on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles’ campus.
Announced last year and funded entirely by LAFC, this investment in the university by a professional sports team represents a wildly foreign concept to those of us in San Diego who have witnessed the devolution of trust between America’s Finest MLS aspirants in FS Investors, and San Diego State University. Where LAFC and Cal State LA have found harmony and mutual benefit in partnership, SDSU wages a one sided war of words that leaves very little for San Diegans to take hope from.
“Cal State LA is the perfect home for our team, and this plan affirms our commitment to building our future with the youth of Los Angeles,” LAFC president and owner Tom Penn said in a statement released by the club. “We look forward to developing world class players and talent for decades to come at Cal State LA, which has a history of elevating the communities it serves.”
Along with building their training facility at the university, LAFC has pledged an additional $1.5 million to Cal State LA. That pledge comes on the heels of a $100,000 contribution the club made to the Cal State LA athletic department last fall. LAFC also announced that they’ll support Cal State LA students through internships and collaborations with university programs at the facility. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
“This training facility is unparalleled and uniquely Los Angeles,” LAFC GM John Thorrington said in the statement. “The building itself incorporates innovative indoor-outdoor spaces and is unlike anything I’ve seen the world over. Any player will love to train at this world-class facility. The central location is ideal for our academy programming, and our ownership’s investment enables us to align our soccer operation from LAFC’s MLS team to our academy.”
Regardless as to which side of the football vs futbol debate you stand on, it sure seems silly to eschew the opportunity to build something beautiful and functional in San Diego. Ultimately San Diego will decide which team it wants to win this competition in November. Until then we’ll just have to content ourselves with comparisons to other places where ideas actually become reality and adults figure out how to work together for the greatest good.
Be sure to check out sdchronicle.org on Twitter and Facebook for more writing and check out the Chronicles of San Diego Podcast wherever podcasts are found.