Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: New stadium is a hit as LAFC wins home opener

LOS ANGELES — The two teams played more than 90 minutes before either team scored in the first game at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park April 29.

Defender Laurent Ciman of the Los Angeles Football Club sent fans home happy when he scored from approximately 30 yards away on a free kick three minutes into stoppage time as LAFC, in its home debut, defeated the Seattle Sounders FC, 1-0.

“There was a lot of excitement … and every player felt it,” said Ciman, who played for Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

Except for rude chants aimed at Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei every time he took a goal kick, the 22,000 fans who packed the new stadium were well behaved.

The chant, a tradition among many Latino soccer fans, was denounced after the game by team and Major League Soccer officials, who told fans they would be ejected from the stadium at future games if the chant continued.

Banc of California Stadium, on the former site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, has an intimate atmosphere with the steepest seating bowl in Major League Soccer, 34 degrees, and seats as close as 12 feet from the sideline.

The $350 million stadium includes a large public plaza, restaurants, an LAFC retail store and a conference and events center planned to be in use 365 days a year.

The stadium includes what MLS Commissioner Don Garber called “the largest directors box in professional sports … It’s quintessentially Los Angeles.”

LAFC’s ownership group includes basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson; soccer legend Mia Hamm-Garciaparra and her husband, Nomar Garciaparra, a former Major League Baseball star; actor Will Farrell and life coach Tony Robbins. All were at the game.

“You get in all kinds of games, but it’s nice to not have to open this incredible new stadium in Los Angeles with a zero-zero,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said after his team’s record improved to 5-2-0, the best start among MLS’ 16 expansion teams. LAFC moved into second place in the Western Conference with 15 points, two behind Sporting Kansas City, which has played two more games.

“My favorite part was just walking out there at the beginning,” Bradley said. “It was awesome. I talk often about if you want to be a team that can play football, you have to have a great field. The field was incredible, it was wet, the ball moved, but at the end we also weren’t shaken.”

Alex Roldan, who played high school soccer at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, tries to make a play April 29 against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium. Roldan’s brother, Christian, is his teammate on the Seattle Sounders. (Photo by Nick Koza)

The Roldan brothers from Pico Rivera both started for the Sounders. Younger brother Alex played left forward and Christian Roldan was a defensive midfielder. Both were credited with one shot during the game and both committed three fouls, Christian drawing a yellow card for one of his fouls. Christian also had three fouls committed on him.

LAFC hosts Dallas at 1 p.m. May 5 for its next home game.

TIME TO PANIC?: To the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers who have been squirming all year while watching their team under perform: It might be time to panic. The season is a month old and a healthy Clayton Kershaw has one win.

Three of the team’s four regular infielders are on the disabled list, along with right fielder Yasiel Puig. Oh, and the bullpen stinks. The Dodgers have a record of 12-17 and are already nine games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There are still 133 games left to play and the Dodgers have been known to go on incredibly hot runs in recent seasons, so anything can happen, I just don’t expect it this time.

One, the law of averages is against them. The Dodgers have won five straight National League West titles. That is hard to do and complacency can — and often does — set in.

The strength of the Dodgers the last two years has been their bullpen. The bullpen has been horrible lately, from closer Kenley Jansen on down.

In the last eight games, Dodgers relief pitchers have given up 22 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings, an earned run average of 8.49. While getting 70 outs over those eight games, the relievers have allowed 34 hits and 16 walks.

Adam Liberatore was the last relief pitcher to bring in a gasoline can from the bullpen May 1. He came in with a 3-2 lead to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Seven pitches later he left with the Dodgers trailing 4-3, which was the final score.

In 29 games, the Dodgers have already used 13 pitchers out of the bullpen, counting starter Kenta Maeda, who pitched game in relief. Only three have an ERA under 3.

Dodger management believes that most relief pitchers are interchangeable and that the pitchers will eventually find their own comfort zone. It’s apparently going to take longer than one month.

In the meantime, the team is waiting for third baseman Justin Turner to heal his broken wrist. Turner is an essential part of the lineup, but is also a key figure in the clubhouse.

The Dodgers received a possible crushing blow this week when they learned that shortstop Corey Seager would miss the rest of the season due to elbow surgery. The Dodgers are off to a 12-17 start in 2018. (Photo by Nick Koza)

His bat is even more important now that shortstop Corey Seager has been lost for the season because of elbow surgery.

The Dodgers are going to need Joc Pederson to play like he did as a rookie three years ago, Puig to prove he can be a consistent big league hitter or Alex Verdugo might run them both off the roster. Verdugo will be given a chance to play a lot now that Chris Taylor has moved to shortstop from centerfield.

It’s too early to count the Dodgers out of playoff contention, but the bandwagon has lightened considerably since last October, with more deserters every day.


City News Service contributed to this story.