Diomandé tackles adversity
Despite having best record in MLS, LAFC fell in Western Conference final
Jo Christian Weldingh
The Seattle Sounders turned out to be too strong for Norwegian striker Adama Diomandé and his team Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC). The Sounders, who later went on to win the MLS (Major League Soccer) Cup, beat LAFC 3-1 in a rather one-sided Western Conference final.
It has been a roller coaster of a season for the “Dio,” as he’s called in Norway. LAFC has been better than ever before. In just its second season, it had the best record of any MLS team with 21 wins, four losses, and nine ties for 72 points, 16 points better than the second place Sounders, eight points better than Eastern Conference winner NYCFC, which also didn’t reach the final. Diomandé had a decent season, scoring eight goals and assisting on seven. However, he has been struggling outside the pitch.
In September, it became public that the Oslo native had voluntarily entered the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. LAFC’s spokesperson later clarified that this was not because Diomandé himself was struggling with substance abuse, but because he had to deal with an undisclosed personal problem.
His entrance into the SABH program made Diomandé ineligible for four games and made him miss the rest of the regular season. However, he was ready for the playoffs and made a big comeback in the Western Conference semifinal against the LA Galaxy. He became the big hero when he came in as a substitute and scored two goals, securing a 5-3 victory over his team’s city rivals. His second goal, making the score 5-3, was the highlight of the game. Diomandé received the ball on the center line, advanced past the entire Galaxy defense before calmly, almost arrogantly, chipping the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net.
“It was an emotional game for me,” he said in his post-match interview. “I have been away for a while because of personal issues, so it felt great to play in front of the fans again. The atmosphere was fantastic. It was a very important game. We have lost against them before, but when it really matters, we were able to win. It feels amazing.”
Diomandé was a success for LAFC last season after transferring from English club Hull FC in May 2018. Diomandé scored 12 goals in 18 appearances and became a favorite of the Los Angeles fans.
When joining the LAFC side, Diomandé was reunited with his old coach, former Team USA coach Bob Bradley. Bradley had trained Diomandé on the Norwegian club Stabæk back in 2015. It was under Bradley’s guidance that Diomandé was able to take his career to the next level, making his debut on the Norwegian national team and eventually attracting the interests of English Premier League club Hull FC.
When the Norwegian was interviewed by LAFC’s website, he didn’t hide the fact that the two share a special bond.
“When I was in Norway, I told him he’s been like a father to me,” he said. “I didn’t grow up with a father who was around, and just to get that motivation a guy I just newly met … I can do better on the pitch and also outside the pitch. I’m just happy to know him.”
It’s unknown what the future holds for the Norwegian striker, but he has said that he wants another chance with the Norwegian national team. He currently stands at 11 games and one goal on the international stage.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the December 13, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.