Angel City Brigade: For Love And The Game
For Crosson, 30, an out-of-work third-grade teacher from San Bernardino, and his girlfriend Alina Lovely, 28, a supervisor at a Cole’s Department Store, the day started really early.
“Tailgating’s half the fun. Living 70 miles away, I like to get out here early so it makes the drive worth it,” Crosson said, wearing a green poncho and sipping a beer as rain poured down on the already crowded tailgate five-hours before kickoff.
Crosson and Lovely met three years ago through a mutual friend in the group who did everything she could to set them up, Lovely said.
“She kept trying to get us in the same spot together…one fateful night it just clicked,” Lovely said, her petite frame wrapped tightly in a black hoodie, leather jacket and ACB scarf. She wears skeleton-trimmed black gloves on her hands while clutching a red cup.
Lovely is not the only one who found love in the ACB.
“My sister started coming to the games and she actually met her boyfriend, who is an ACB member,” said Lovely. “We have a lot of couples who have been together for a while."
Crosson and Lovely both said the group’s members have formed bonds stronger than simply an appreciation for soccer.
“We all hang out outside of the games also…if you’ve got an ACB shirt on, or a scarf, you’re family,” Crosson said.
Lovely said she longs for match days not just for the soccer, but to see her friends as well.
“You go a week without a game, or two weeks without a game…and when we get down here we’re looking forward to seeing those specific people that we miss,” Lovely said.
As recently as three years ago, ACB could only muster 20 or so fans per match. Nowadays, the group routinely fills their entire 800-seat allotment on the north side of the stadium. Members also travel to away matches and gather in the offseason for social events such as concerts and pub crawls.
“We sing songs in Spanish and English…we’ve got everyone from all different walks of life…lawyers, doctors, teachers, students,” Crosson said.
"Even babies,” he added with a laugh.
Lovely, who self-identifies as both Mexican and Native American, is proud of the group’s welcoming nature.
“We don’t see color. We don’t see age or religious background or anything like that…we all just love each other,” she said.
Crosson said the group’s founders started it for supporters who wanted to sit in the cheaper general-admission seats behind the goal versus the more expensive seats occupied by the team’s other supporters groups – the Galaxians and LA Riot Squad.
Because general-admission tickets do not have assigned seating, other supporters can walk over and join them during the match, which Crosson said helped to attract newcomers.
“We felt a group in the GA [general admission] would grow a lot quicker because it’s more affordable…it’s obviously worked,” Crosson said.
With next year’s season-ticket price coming in at under $400 for the year, Crosson said that despite only working intermittently as a substitute teacher, cost is not a barrier for his support. But with all the time their dedication requires, you might think Crosson and Lovely would have to make sacrifices. Not so, he said.
“This is our social life...it’s something we can share,” Crosson said.
Since the group has no membership fees, Crosson said they are able to raise funds for tailgates and other events through small profits on ACB merchandise sales, and also through a deal with the Galaxy that allows the group to earn $2 for every Galaxy ticket sold through the ACB website after they meet a certain quota. He said items like flags and streamers used during matches are often donated by members.
Crosson started playing soccer when he was four-years old, and grew up watching Mexican-league games because there was no other soccer on TV.
“There was obviously no MLS, and maybe a couple times a year you could catch a game on ESPN from England," he said. "I always wanted a team at home, and when the Galaxy formed it was a match made in heaven.”
Crosson believes American soccer supporters revel in the sport’s rebellious position outside the mainstream.
“Soccer fans are sort of the punk rock of professional sports fans,” he said.
Tattoos, body piercings and dyed hair are certainly prevalent around the tailgate, but there are kids too. As Lovely poses for a photo, a young girl runs up to greet her with a warm hug. Lovely obliges willingly, bending down to wrap her spooky looking gloves around the child. This is punk rock – ACB style.
Crosson said the group made a conscious effort to appeal to fans of all ages.
“When we first started, we wanted to create a family atmosphere,” he explained.
With so many couples around, that family might be growing sooner rather than later.
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