Their very nickname – Galaxy – reflects a collection of stars.
And in this case the name fits, as the Los Angeles Galaxy has assembled Major League Soccer’s most star-studded roster: United States national team leader Landon Donovan, international celebrity David Beckham, MLS goalkeeper of the year Donovan Ricketts, league No. 2 goal-scorer Edson Buddle, defender-of-the-year finalist Omar Gonzalez and former national team coach Bruce Arena.
That high-wattage collection came together this season to post the best record in MLS: 18-7-5. And the Galaxy will try to advance to the Western Conference final on Sunday, when they take a one-goal advantage into the final game of their aggregate-score series against Sounders FC.
However, to attract attention from under the shadow of the “Hollywood” sign, mere winning isn’t enough. Like the NBA Lakers’ famed “Showtime” – a certain amount of glitz is needed.
“That’s L.A. – it comes with the territory,” said Sounders FC defender Tyrone Marshall, who played with the Galaxy from 2002-2007. “They’re always looking to go beyond what the norm is and start a trend. Other teams are following, bringing in big names as well. This year, I think they definitely got what the money paid for with the Supporters’ Shield and having the attendance.”
This series not only brings together two of the hottest teams in MLS, but also the league’s top two home draws.
Seattle led MLS with an average of 36,173 per home game. Los Angeles was second with 21,436 turning out for a typical game at Home Depot Center.
“I do think it’s a much greater challenge for MLS in the markets of New York and L.A. than it is in Seattle,” Arena said last week. “I lived in Tacoma – Seattle/Tacoma – for close to two years. Even in the ’70s, I thought Seattle was a soccer market, and they embraced the sport, obviously. ... In New York and L.A. there’s obviously a lot of competition for the sports dollar. I don’t need to tell you, but we have the Lakers, Seattle lost their NBA team. I just think they’re different settings. I don’t think there’s a finer city for the sport in this country than Seattle.”
The Galaxy has tried to find its place in Southern California’s crowded sports and entertainment landscape in various ways, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
Schmid coached the Galaxy from 1999-2004, but despite winning a CONCACAF Champions Cup, a U.S. Open Cup and an MLS Cup, he was fired in part because his style of soccer wasn’t deemed entertaining enough.
“When I was in L.A. there was an emphasis on making sure the team had a Latin influence. And when I was there we had a lot of players like a (Mauricio) Cienfuegos and a Carlos Ruiz and players like Jorge Campos before I got there, that added that. Now, it went away from that, and it became the big star-quality thing with Beckham. And then, because they didn’t have success, it became, ‘It doesn’t matter how you have success, it doesn’t matter what you look like, just win.’ And I think that’s where the L.A. franchise is now. When I was there at the very end it was a little more orientated: ‘Well, we’ve got to win in a certain way.’ ”
Starting defender Jeff Parke (ankle) did not practice again Friday, as the club went through its final local practice before flying to L.A. in the afternoon. Schmid indicated Parke is doubtful for Sunday. ... Jamison Olave of Real Salt Lake was named MLS defender of the year. ... Kevin Stott was voted referee of the year, and Craig Lowry assistant referee of the year. In the final game of the regular season, Stott booked Seattle’s Steve Zakuani for diving when he seemed to be knocked down in the penalty area by Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric.