LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Inter Miami, a team partly owned by football legend David Beckham, made its long-awaited Major League Soccer debut in Los Angeles on Sunday and despite falling 1-0 to LAFC there were plenty of positives to take from their first appearance.
The underdog Miami squad didn’t look intimidated by the hostile environment and held its own in a physical match against one of the league’s top teams.
In the waning moments of the first half, LAFC winger Carlos Vela chipped a shot over the outstretched arms of Miami goalie Luis Robles to put the home side ahead for good.
Miami had its chances but an equalizer never came on a partly sunny and cool day at the Banc of California stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
Beckham and his wife Victoria took in the action and had to be pleased with what they saw from the team, which includes the veteran Robles, 19-year-old Matias Pellegrini and splashy acquisition Rodolfo Pizarro, who left Liga MX to be a part of the new franchise.
Above all, Beckham must be relieved to see the team hit the field at all given the rocky road for his dream of launching an MLS team in South Florida, which he first proposed in 2013.
“This is a project that took a lot of time to get over the finish line but it really speaks to the strength and commitment of that ownership group and David’s passion to stick with it,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told reporters at halftime.
The primary dispute has been over the location of the Inter-Miami stadium.
For now the team will play in Fort Lauderdale, 25 miles (47 km) to the north of Miami, although MLS is determined to get a downtown Miami stadium for the team.
“They are not going to stay in Fort Lauderdale,” Garber said. “There will come a time when we’re going to have to push the envelope and get that deal finalised ... this is a Miami team.”
Beckham shocked the football world in 2007 when he signed a five-year contract with the LA Galaxy in a move that energized football fans in Southern California and gave MLS a huge boost.
As part of his deal for joining the Galaxy, Beckham was given the chance to buy into an MLS franchise at a reduced price.
His return to Los Angles on Sunday took him back to a city where sports have enjoyed tremendous growth over the past 15 years with the addition of new stadiums and two NFL teams. LA also boasts some the biggest names in sport, including Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.
And while Beckham has struggled with building in Miami, the Los Angeles Rams will play next season in a new, nearly $5 billion stadium in Inglewood and the Clippers have plans to move into a new stadium in 2024.
Reporting by Rory Carroll; editing by Richard Pullin