For LAFC founding owner Peter Guber, MLS Cup journey carries special significance

LAFC players accept their MLS Cup championship rings before the team's 3-2 season-opening win.
LAFC players accept their MLS Cup championship rings before the team’s 3-2 season-opening win over the Portland Timbers at BMO Stadium on Saturday.
(Michael Owens / Getty Images)

Four months after LAFC won its first MLS Cup, the victors collected their spoils Saturday.

In a 13-minute celebration before its season-opening 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers at BMO Stadium, the team unveiled the championship banner huge high above western grandstand and welcomed the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy onto the field as the players and coaches lined up to collect their championship rings.

Peter Guber, the team’s executive chairman and a founding owner, got his ring in his suite, though he had to clear some real estate on his fingers to try it on. In the last three seasons Guber has won championship rings with the Dodgers and Golden State Warriors in addition to LAFC.

A banner celebrating LAFC's 2022 MLS Cup championship is unveiled at BMO Stadium before Saturday's win over Portland.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

It’s a triple crown of crowns, perhaps the first for an owner in U.S. professional sports. Add in his two esports championships, five previous NBA titles and the half-dozen or so others he won with the minor league baseball teams he has owned, and Guber has enough rings to open a jewelry shop.

And while picking a favorite among championships can be a little like picking a favorite child, Guber said the MLS one is special. The Dodgers and Warriors were established franchises when he bought in, but he helped bring LAFC to life, starting the club when it was nothing more than an idea.

“Each one of the journeys are remarkably different,” he said. “The value of the ring, they’re a piece of plastic or metal that reminds you of your journey. They trigger emotional response and memory of what your experience was. That’s what makes this one interesting because they mean different things to different people.”

It lasted just a few minutes, accounting for just a fraction of John McCarthy’s seven-year professional career, but his performance in goal in last November’s MLS Cup final has been life-changing.

Feb. 27, 2023

This last journey means something different to Guber, he repeatedly stressed, because it wasn’t one he made alone. In the pregame ceremony he carried the Western Conference trophy, one of several prizes LAFC showed off Saturday, 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.

“Very many people did the building of it, not the least of which, of course [were] all the players and the coaches and all the partners,” Guber said, referring to the fellow 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 a chance to ignite the city with a different team.”

Peter Guber gives a thumbs up to the camera.
Peter Guber, executive chairman and founding owner of LAFC, is also a co-owner of the Dodgers and Golden State Warriors.
(John Hefti / Associated Press)

The rings were once a blank canvas too, one jewelers filled in with diamonds — and symbolism — marking the final steps of LAFC’s journey nine-year journey from concept to championship. The 67 white diamonds on the bezel represent the number of regular-season points the team earned en route to the Supporters’ Shield while the 128 black diamonds on the crown memorialize the minute Gareth Bale scored the goal that set up LAFC’s win on penalty kicks. The ring is also engraved with the scores for all three of the team’s playoff victories.

LAFC began its quest for another ring Saturday by holding off a desperate Portland rally to win its season opener for a sixth straight year.

After losing leading scorer Cristian Arango on a transfer to Mexican club Pachuca earlier this month, there were questions about where LAFC’s scoring would come from. Against Portland, it came from defender Giorgio Chiellini and captain Carlos Vela in the first half and Mahala Opoku seven minutes into the second.

Portland Timbers defender Zac McGraw, left, tackles LAFC forward Stipe Biuk during the second half Saturday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

For Chiellini, the goal was his first in MLS while Vela’s score, off a penalty kick, was his 70th in regular-season play, extending his franchise record. Vela got the assist on Opoku’s goal — his 47th, also a club record.

Portland made it interesting late with consecutive goals, the first by Evander at the end of a breakaway in the 62nd minute and the second from Cristhian Paredes, who scored off a scramble in front of the net 18 minutes later. But a corner kick in the dying seconds of stoppage time went awry, allowing LAFC to escape with the victory, leaving its championship party untarnished.

LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy, top, reaches for the ball during the second half against the Portland Timbers.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

“The feeling was really great,” said Opoku, 21, who is just beginning his professional career. “Having my first trophy as a professional player and you see the ring, it’s so beautiful. Oh my goodness. You say to yourself ‘if I do well, I’ll get more’.”

For Chiellini, 38, a seven-time league champion in Serie A who is nearing the end of an accomplished career, the ring was also a first.

“No rings in Italy. Just a medal and the Cup,” he said of the prizes that are awarded in most European leagues. “We usually celebrate at the end of the season, not the beginning of the next once.


“That was a little weird for me. But it’s nice.”