CARSON, Calif. — After the final whistle, when Arsenal and Bayern Munich players had stopped running and shook hands before heading to the locker room, Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah took his time leaving the field.
The 20-year-old, who’s fairly anonymous to fans at large, scored an 88th-minute winner to lift the Gunners past Bayern 2-1 in Wednesday’s preseason friendly. He raised his hands above his head and clapped to the sound of the “Edd-ie! Edd-ie!” chants that rang throughout the stadium.
Nketiah only needed nine minutes of playing time to draw that kind of attention from the crowd of 26,704 at Dignity Health Sports Park, most of it wrapped in red Arsenal gear.
According to manager Unai Emery, that kind of reception is partly why his club traveled all the way from London for its preseason campaign.
“This travel also for us, is to be with our supporters worldwide,” he said, “here in Los Angeles or in Washington, in Charlotte, in Denver. And it is positive to be together.”
Over 5,000 miles of travel landed the Gunners at the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday for the International Champions Cup — the second match of their preseason U.S. tour, which they opened with a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in Denver.
Wednesday’s win over Bayern was Arsenal’s first match in the ICC, a tournament in which they’ve participated twice before. And matchups against Fiorentina and Real Madrid will follow as they wrap up preparation for upcoming Premier League season, which begins next month.
While Arsenal has plenty of experience in the International Champions Cup — they hold the joint record for most goals scored in an ICC match with five against Paris Saint-Germain last year — this is their first time participating in the North American leg of the tournament.
The time change can be jarring. While it was 8 p.m. locally at the start of Wednesday’s match, it was at 4 a.m. in London. But the Gunners have made the most of their change of scenery since arriving in Los Angeles last week.
They visited the Venice Beach Boardwalk for a skills competition. And they joined the Los Angeles Rams at Champions Field in Inglewood to host a youth football and soccer clinic.
"It's an amazing opportunity to get out and see different parts of L.A. and do something a little bit different,” Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno told Arsenal.com.
Emery also noted the impact of competing in the tournament, which hosts 12 renowned soccer clubs on three continents: North America, Asia and Europe, to help prepare for their season.
“It’s positive because our preparation is going to be playing with big teams, like today,” he said. “And I prefer to play against the best teams.”
After Wednesday’s match, the cheers continued to echo at Dignity Health Sports Stadium as Nketiah stopped to take selfies with fans and to sign their jerseys, leaving them with one final wave before carrying his Man of the Match trophy off the field.
“We are really happy with our supporters, in Denver Monday and now here,” Emery said. “They push us to give — for them — all the best in each match.”
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