Four months after LAFC won its first MLS Cup, the victors collected their loot on Saturday.
In a 13-minute celebration for the season-opening 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers at BMO Stadium, the team unveiled its massive championship flag high above the West Stand and welcomed the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy onto the field as players and coaches in line up to collect their championship rings.
Peter Guber, the team’s executive chairman and one of the founders, got his ring in his suite, though he had to free up some real estate on his fingers to try it on. In the past three seasons, Guber has won championship rings alongside LAFC with the Dodgers and Golden State Warriors.
It’s a triple crown of crowns, perhaps the first for a principal owner in American professional sports. Add in his two eSports championships, five previous NBA titles and the six others he won with the minor league baseball teams he owned, and Guber has enough rings to open a jewelry store.
And while picking a favorite among championships can be a bit like picking a kid favorite, Guber said the MLS is special. The Dodgers and Warriors were both iconic franchises when he joined, but he helped bring LAFC to life by founding the club when it was just an idea.
“Each of the trips are remarkably different,” he said. “The value of the ring, it is a piece of plastic or metal that reminds you of your journey. They trigger emotional responses and memories of what your experience was. That’s what makes this so interesting because they mean different things to different people.”
This latest journey means something different for Guber, he stressed repeatedly, because it was not one he made alone. At the pregame ceremony, he carried the 43-pound Anschutz Trophy onto the field with co-owners Bennett Rosenthal, Brandon Beck and Larry Berg who, like Guber, were all with the team long before it played its first game in 2018.
“Lots of people built it, not the least, of course[were]all the players and the coaches and all the partners,” Guber said, referring to the co-owners he playfully calls the Three Musketeers. “When we started there was no stadium, there were no players. There was no brand there, there was no name, there were no fans.
“So we had to establish the traditions and value. You had a blank canvas and you had the chance to set the city on fire with another team.”
The rings were also once a blank canvas, a jeweler filled with diamonds – and symbolism – marked the final steps of LAFC’s nine-year journey from concept to championship. The 67 white diamonds on the rim represent the number of regular season points the team earned towards the Supporters’ Shield, while the 128 black diamonds on the crown commemorate the minute Gareth Bale scored the goal that gave LAFC’s penalty shootout victory. The ring is also inscribed with the scores for all three of the team’s playoff victories.
LAFC began its search for a new ring Saturday by holding off a desperate rally in Portland to win the season opener for the sixth consecutive year.
After losing top scorer Cristian Arango earlier this month on a transfer to Mexican club Pachuca, there were questions about where LAFC’s scoreline would come from. Against Portland, it came from defenseman Giorgio Chiellini and captain Carlos Vela in the first half and Mahala Opoku seven minutes into the second.
For Chiellini, the goal was his first in MLS, while Vela’s score, from a penalty kick, was his 70th in the regular season, extending his franchise record. Vela got the assist on Opoku’s goal – his 47th, also a club record.
But Portland made things interesting late, with Evander scoring at the end of a breakaway in the 62nd minute and Cristhian Paredes netting another from a scramble for the net 18 minutes later.