Second in a series highlighting the careers of Southern Californians who play professional soccer.
Technically, of course, Cobi Jones is no longer a playing professional and has hung up his boots to become an assistant coach with the Galaxy under Ruud Gullit.
But the guy who grew up in Westlake Village has been part of the Southern California soccer scene for so long it would be just wrong to close 2007 without acknowledging Jones’ accomplishments with the Galaxy and the U.S. Men’s National Team.
At one time Jones was the face of American soccer, playing more times for the U.S. Men’s National Team and the Galaxy than any other player.
“He’s been the cornerstone of the team,” former Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid said when Jones announced the 2007 season would be his last back in March. “He’s always a player fans get excited about because he brings you to the edge of your seat. … He didn’t like losing at all and that’s what made him the player he is.”
At his peak he possessed a devastating pace that could – and did – change games.
Here’s the lead from a June 24, 2001 Galaxy game story I wrote for the Breeze that sums up what he was capable of:
Just three minutes remained when Galaxy winger Cobi Jones collected the ball, split two MetroStars’ defenders, eluded a sprawling third and crossed to Luis Hernandez, who slotted home the first of what proved to be a pair of opportunistic strikes within a minute.
The much-needed turn of brilliance all but wrapped up a game that had droned on for 86 minutes with a sense of humdrum inevitability as the dominant Galaxy finally disposed of the listless New York-New Jersey MetroStars, 2-0, Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
“It was a great move,” Hernandez said after the game via an interpreter. “He made 90 percent of the goal, I made 10 percent.
The win, accomplished in 81-degree heat and before a national TV audience, meant the Galaxy became the first Major League Soccer franchise to win 100 regular-season games.
The best way to appreciate Jones’ career, however, is not in words, but when he wore the No. 13 shirt we will never see at Home Depot Center again.
Here’s a compilation of Cobi clips (mainly with the U.S. National Team) shown before the Galaxy’s game last month against the Minnesota Thunder:
And here’s a pic of Cobi enjoying one of the side benefits of being a pro soccer player.
Thanks for everything, Cobi.