It has been 15 seasons since MLS began in 1996, which gave U.S. soccer fans a domestic league for the first time since the North American Soccer League finally succumbed to over-spending a dozen long years earlier.
It has been a decade since the Galaxy began considering a move to Carson (I broke the story in the Daily Breeze in March 2000).
And it was in 2005 that Chivas USA began its inaugural season.
Given these milestones it seemed apt to start a series of weekly posts looking back at (recent) U.S. soccer history from a Southern California perspective:
*Fullerton native Eric Wynalda, still letting his feet do the talking back then, scored an 88th minute winner and gave the San Jose Clash a 1-0 win over D.C. United on national television April 6 in the inaugural MLS game (the rest of the 10-team league started a week later). Soccer fans are mostly relieved the first-ever game of the new league was not a scoreless draw. And that no other teams are named after punk bands.
*The Galaxy drew 2-2 at the Columbus Crew (who couldn’t draw a crowd back then either; the announced attendance was 10,797, although it was a freezing cold night). Ezra Hendrickson (now an assistant to Sigi Schmid in Seattle) opened the scoring for the Galaxy, while Clint Mathis popped up to notch a 87th minute equalizer and allow the 2-0-2 Galaxy to remain undefeated to open the season. Schmid was starting his second season coaching the Galaxy.
His starting XI: Kevin Hartman, Joe Franchino, Greg Vanney, Robin Fraser, Ezra Hendrickson, Simon Elliott, Danny Pena, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Cobi Jones, Clint Mathis, Roy Myers.
*Landon Donovan joins the Galaxy (well OK, he was introduced March 31 but close enough) after an unhappy two-month stint with Bayer Leverkusen.
“The situation in Germany definitely didn’t go as planned,” said Donovan, 23. “This is where I need to be. I don’t need to be in Europe. I don’t need to be anywhere but here.”
*”El futbol esta aqui!” Chivas USA had boasted as it began its inaugural season, but there was precious little of that on show at it’s first-ever game (it was actually April 2, but again, close enough). Only 18,493 turn up at Home Depot Center to witness the club lose 2-0 to defending MLS champion D.C. United. Chivas USA officials point out that the Pope died 30 minutes before kickoff and that could have affected the walk-up crowd. Um, OK.
So much for “games that really matter and fans that really care” as Commish Don Garber had boasted.
The Chivas USA starting XI (how many of these names do you recognize?)): Brad Guzan, Orlando Perez, Aaron Lopez, Ryan Suarez, Ezra Hendrickson, Francisco Gomez, Hector Cuadros, Ramon Ramirez, Arturo Torres, Thiago Martins, Matt Taylor.