Dignity Health Sports Park celebrated its 20th birthday Wednesday, an occasion Galaxy supporters marked by turning back the clock, showing up and getting loud after ending a boycott that had marred the team’s first seven home games this season.
It wasn’t quite like the old days on the field, though, with Alan Pulido scoring twice — the second goal coming on a penalty kick in stoppage time — to give Sporting Kansas City a 2-2 draw before a midweek crowd of 20,960, the largest for a Galaxy home match in more than two months.
“I’m very excited to be back,” said Leslie Chavez, a member of the L.A. Riot Squad, one of four supporter groups that agreed to not to attend home games as long as Chris Klein remained the team’s president. Fans have long blamed Klein for a decline in which the team lost more games than it has won since 2017, and that displeasure grew into a boycott when the team announced it had re-signed its president to a multiyear contract in January, a month after he and the team were hit with harsh penalties for violating salary budget rules.
Klein was ousted three weeks ago and Wednesday the fans kept their word, returning to the supporters’ sections in the north stands and in the southeast corner.
“Good to be back,” said Andrew Alesana, president of the L.A. Riot Squad. “I haven’t been home for a while.”
The team, coach Greg Vanney said, was happy to have them back as well.
“It felt like we were mostly back to normal,” he said. “I felt a lot of energy in the building, noise, things like that. I think the guys profited from that and were able to use it in a positive way.”
Supporters who observed the boycott lost money on the protest since they paid for their tickets but didn’t use them. Alesana and Chavez say it was money well spent.
“The protest served its purpose,” Chavez said. “The purpose of it, for me, was to show AEG [the Galaxy’s parent company] how displeased we were about how the club was being run and to force changes. It was successful in one manner, which will be to bring in new leadership. This has been a very rough season.”
“The overall point we wanted to make was that you can’t just treat us as if we are customers. We are part of this club. We care about what goes on with it,” he said. “We’ve kind of been ignored. The entire fan base has been ignored.”
Change may have come too late to save this season though because while Wednesday’s draw left the Galaxy (3-9-5) unbeaten in three games since Klein’s departure, the team remains 13th in the 14-team Western Conference table, eight points out of a playoff spot halfway through the season.
The Galaxy fell behind early, with Pulido’s header giving Kansas City a lead 12 minutes in. But Martín Cáceres evened the score in the 24th minute, and Preston Judd then put the Galaxy ahead in the 64th minute.
But a handball call on substitute Daniel Aguirre in the final minute of regulation led to Pulido’s game-tying goal, silencing the crowd for the first time all night.