Galaxy games on the Fourth of July are one of Southern California’s newest Independence Day traditions (if that makes any sort of sense) and I have been to virtually all of them since the first game in 1996, a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution before almost 63,000 at the Rose Bowl.
Games in Pasadena used to be something of an endurance test for fans. Tens of thousands used to descend on the area just to watch the fireworks from the golf course next to the stadium and BBQ, in addition to the soccer fans heading to what was invariably one of the best-attended games of the season, so early arrival in the sweltering heat was essential. Then you’d have to wait an hour or more to leave after the fireworks display as vehicles clogged Pasadena’s winding residential residential streets, turning a long drive home to Ventura (where I lived at the time) even longer.
Games in Carson at the 27,000 capacity Home Depot Center are considerably cooler and less crowded. Indeed, for a couple of years there before the arrival of David Beckham the Galaxy weren’t even selling out the game.
That’s likely to be true again this year with tickets beginning at $14 apparently still available (call 1-877-3GALAXY). That’s a far cry from last year when the Galaxy began selling $32 tickets on the grass berm the Tuesday before the game.
This year the opposition again is the aptly named New England Revolution who have now met the Galaxy six times on Independence Day. The Revs haven’t lost to the Galaxy in five years though, including the last three meetings in Carson.
Last year’s game had sadly familiar overtones with former goalkeeper Steve Cronin failing to hold a shot to allow the first goal and former defender Abel Xavier failing to mark an opponent to allow the second. Soon to be former Galaxy midfielder David Beckham marked his ninth wedding anniversary by scoring the solitary Galaxy goal in reply.
If that seems like a long time ago now then consider: last year at this time Galaxy fans were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Argentine defender Eduardo Dominguez in mid-month in hopes he would shore up the defense.
Instead, the Revs game marked the third in a row without a win for the Galaxy – a streak that eventually reached a club record 12 and led to the sacking of Ruud Gullit.
This year could be different for the Galaxy. After last weekend’s unexpected victory over league leaders Houston, the 3-3-9 Galaxy should sense another opportunity awaits against an injury-ravaged New England team that is 4-4-4 and playing its fifth game in 14 days.
This year could see the Galaxy debut of former Chivas USA forward Alecko Eskandarian, while the Revs counter with their own new signing in Lithuanian forward Edgaras Jankauskas.
Goalkeeper Josh Saunders will apparently start for the Galaxy tonight since regular starter Donovan Ricketts was otherwise engaged with Jamaica last night. But Landon Donovan has returned from national team duty.
I plan to blog and Twitter from the game
A programming note: those staying at home and watching the game at 8 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel should note the U.S. opens Gold Cup play against mighty Grenada at 6 p.m. on the same channel.
Whatever Independence Day tradition you observe today, enjoy the holiday.