For some members of the Black-and-Red, flying across the country this weekend is just the first trip of the MLS regular season. For others, it’s a trip home.
Last game in CA: August 27, 2014 D.C. United at LA Galaxy
Hailing from Panorama City, CA., Franklin played college soccer at Cal State Northridge and still has quite a bit of family in California. Over 30 friends and family, in fact, will make it to the StubHub Center Sunday. Many are familiar with the venue; Franklin spent the first 6 seasons of his career at LA Galaxy before joining United in 2014. The composed defender developed into a reliable outside back during his time in Southern California; he was MLS Rookie of the Year in 2008 and won an MLS Cup in 2012. “It’s a special place to play, especially in front of family, friends and old teammates,” Franklin said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Last game in CA: January 31, 2016 USMNT v Iceland
The Newport, CA., native played college soccer at the University of California. Birnbaum, like Franklin, will also have many friends and family at Stubhub on Sunday and like Franklin’s, they are familiar with the venue. After spending five years in California for school, this January the central defender’s career came full circle in the state where it all began. Jurgen Klinsmann called him into January national team camp and after earning his way into the starting lineup against Iceland, Birnbaum began his international soccer career with a bang, providing a game-tying assist, as well as scoring the winner in stoppage time. “It was a surreal moment, and I was so happy I was able to do it in front of family and friends,” Birnbaum said afterwards.
Last game in CA: November 7, 2014 (SFU vs. Loyola Marymount)
Aguilar spent his college career at University of San Francisco, where he was able to advance his game and develop his own playing style. After being suspended due to yellow-card accumulation in the first leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, a return to familiar grounds could be just what the speedy second-year winger needs to get off to hot start in the league this season.
United have a competitive history with LA Galaxy, that we all know, but what makes this trip special to kick off the 2016 season is to see how far MLS has come in defining itself. No longer are the two opposing coastal teams the only strong outfits. With depth up and down the league, each trip, no matter how far or long, is equal in importance. For some United players, kicking off the 21st regular season with a stop in a familiar place can go a long way to create some early momentum, which United will look to carry on throughout the year.
Kickoff at the Stubhub Center is at 10pm ET live on UniMás.