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What is an “authentic” atmosphere?

MLS Soccer - Los Angeles FC v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

“Teleprompter FC!” howled LA Galaxy fans in delight. Fans of the blue white and gold had discovered their hated rivals were posting supporter’s chants on the advertising boards during Sunday’s El Trafico.

The sight of “Jump for LA Football Club, Ole! Ole!” blaring on the big screen was admittedly cringy at first glance. Many of us were sold on soccer as a spectator sport with organic environments at matches. Unlike those other fraudulent sports with their Jumbotrons directing the fans when to cheer, the stands themselves led the chants.

Posting the words on-screen has to be a gimmick right? Ok fine, points docked for not following the authenticity rulebook. If the atmosphere at the Banc is the talk of the league regardless, does authenticity matter?

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Over the past 18 months the two Los Angeles fanbases have developed dueling identities, each with their own collective ethos.

Since opening night at their spiritual home when 69,225 fans at the Rose Bowl throughly enjoyed a 2-1 victory over the MetroStars, native Angelinos have proudly supported the LA Galaxy, a club which has led MLS in attendance for a significant duration of the league’s history.

Los Angeles is a city of diversity, and the historic supporter’s groups reflect that diversity. The Angel City Brigade brings barra style Latin American support to the bleachers; on the opposite end the clever folks representing the LA Riot Squad have entertained fans and intimidated opponents longer than I can remember. Still here since the beginning, the Galaxians continue to cheer in their 24th year of existence.

Galaxy fans fancy themselves as the genuine supporters of soccer for following the team long before a stadium was built in Los Angeles, or soccer was even accepted as a mainstream sport.

Can’t argue with that. The notion that soccer-loving Angelinos could reasonably ignore the five-time MLS Cup Champions is far fetched to say the least.

Does authenticity have its limitations? Earlier this season Galaxy Twitter lit up when news emerged that in a meeting with the front office, the staff had asked the LA Riot Squad to move from their section in the southeast corner and stand with the Angel City Brigade, a request LARS declined. Fierce arguments sprung up as fans debated the pros and cons and expressed their feelings. LAG Confidential conducted a poll at the time and discovered 85% of Galaxy fans believed the atmosphere could be improved at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The supporter’s groups were correct. Meshing the different groups together in a minimal timeframe would have never achieved the desired results.

That being said, the Galaxy faithful still find themselves dealing with a Catch-22. In a league where supporter’s culture is growing by leaps and bounds and unified groups of thousands of fans deep are setting the new standard for elite support, is it better to rip up roots or stick to proud traditions? Ultimately the fans will decide.

Over at Banc of California Stadium, the much-hyped atmosphere was at its spine-tingling best Sunday night for El Trafico. The first few minutes of the match with “A Call to Arms” rocking the stadium were exhilarating. And very very loud.

If your heart wasn’t racing, you’re lying. Part of the atmosphere was due to who the home team were playing that night and the heavy contingent of Galaxy fans, but the benefits of a unified supporter’s group were evident as LAFC supporters created a vibrant atmosphere that shone on the national broadcast. Having covered El Trafico at the Banc and reviewed the venue last year on separate occasions myself, it’s a stadium that (mostly) delivers on the hype.

How much of the atmosphere is magic vs. mirage is up for debate. Several of our press box colleagues covering both teams have noticed the LAFC supporter’s group known as the 3252 can sometimes suck the energy out of the rest of the stadium. Fans show up expecting to be entertained by the spectacle of the team and the crowd and the atmosphere around the park can suffer as a result. Others praise the environment created by the 3252 but conclude the Dignity Health Sports Park atmosphere is a superior communal experience.

Plenty of Angelinos (Snoop Dogg famously) have a bone to pick with the idea that a team which kicked off play in 2018 has an authentic fanbase.

Is the Banc full of bandwagon fans, hipsters, influencers and other undesirables? Yes.

Will they ditch the team when they stop winning? Probably.

Is that going to happen anytime soon? Probably not. So there’s that.

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Does authenticity matter? Of course it bloody does. Say what you will about the atmosphere at Galaxy games, but the supporters have never worn camo.

Authenticity is also increasingly subjective, and it’s got an expiration date. The next generations of soccer fans won’t care which atmosphere passes a purity test, they will simply pick whichever club is nearer and dearer to their hearts. With safe standing at Dignity Health Sports Park scheduled for completion in 2020 and new supporter’s groups emerging, it will be interesting to see how the future of Galaxy support is shaped.

May the best supporters win.