“I think everybody is surprised. He’s been great for this club, for this league and for everything he’s done for AEG and me personally.
“He’s the one that brought me to this club so I’ve got a lot to thank him for. Everybody was shocked, as you can imagine. We’re going to certainly miss him. He’s a great character, a great guy, and we’re certainly going to miss him in that locker room after games and before games and his enthusiasm for the Galaxy and the Kings was exceptional.
“For me to come over from the UK, to bring my whole family over here, he made it so easy for myself, my family and we’re forever grateful for that. He’ll always be a great friend to me.”
“I am very surprised. He’s obviously a guy that is so massive to what this league’s become, a guy that went to bat for us when no one else really would. It’s sad. We don’t know the details, but it’s something that you just remember times when the league was kind of going south, and he was always a guy who stuck up for the league and obviously put a boat-ton of money into our team and this league when no one else would. It’s sad and hopefully he finds his way back somehow.
“He set the bar pretty high. I couldn’t imagine AEG changing anything it’s been doing with us, but it definintely makes you think twice if it will be the same or not.”
“Devastating. The night before, he was in our locker room congratulating us on going through and he seemed really excited about it. And the next day, he’s gone.
“Everyone was just shocked and it’s sad to see him go, but I’m sure he’ll be fine wherever he lands. He was great to me, he was great to the Galaxy, the overall league and he will definitely be missed.
“From what I understand nothing’s changing. We are still going to be determined to be the gold standard moving forward, to keep on bringing in big names and to keep on winning championships. He kind of started that movement by brining in names but now it’s up to us to kind of keep it going, to keep that standard high.”
“I love Tim Leiweke,” Galaxy coach and general manager Bruce Arena said of the departure of the long-time president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Galaxy’s parent company. “I think he’s one of the best things to happen to me in my career. I’m going to miss Tim. I can speak for everyone in our organization — we care a lot about Tim and we certainly wish him the best.
“He’s been a phenomenal person to work with, a great leader, an inspiration. He’ll be missed.”
It remains to be seen how Leiweke’s successor, Dan Beckerman, continues the Galaxy’s efforts to remain a champion and lure top talent. But Beckerman is a longtime employee of AEG and is a known quantity to the Galaxy.
Arena doesn’t think that part of the Galaxy’s quest will change much.
“We don’t believe so,” Arena said. “We’ll have the same resources. It won’t be the same way (Leiweke) approached it. It can’t be. We can’t replicate Tim in terms of the way he does business, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it as well if not better. That’s our charge and we’re going to have try to move forward.
“Dan’s a great guy. We’ve worked him throughout. Extremely bright, very supportive. A different kind of personality than Tim for sure, but obviously a very competent businessman and a person who works with the utmost integrity so we’re real pleased to continue to work with Dan.”
Ante Razov scored 114 goals in MLS play and took more shots than anyone else (by more than 100) but he’s not done yet. Apparently, the former UCLA star — and Galaxy and Chivas USA forward — is still lurking around the hallways at Home Depot Center.
That’s the background. In Mike Magee’s Galaxy locker, there is tape with the word “GRETZKY” written on it. With Magee’s hat trick on Sunday, it was only natural to ask if someone had anointed, jokingly or otherwise, Magee as the next Great One.
“Ante Razov self-proclaimed himself Gretzky, so he came and stole my shoes one day and put that up there,” Magee said. “So don’t tag that one on me.”
It would be easy to think the A.J. DeLaGarza-Omar Gonzalez pairing at central defense would be the rock of the Galaxy’s back line, and the former college roommates have certainly been a huge factor in two championship runs.
The duo was broken up by the return of Leonardo, who had not played an MLS game since tearing ligaments in his knee on April 17, 2011 in Chicago. Leonardo teamed with Gonzalez, pushing DeLaGarza to the flank, and went 90 minutes in the shutout.
“A lot of things were going through my head. Not just today but even yesterday I was thinking about today,” Leonardo said. “It was almost two years and this exact same team, Chicago, that I got injured. All the training sessions, training games and games leading up to this moment I was thinking about everything, and I leave with a good feeling that I’m ready not only for this game but this season and many more games.”
Why did it take so long? It wasn’t just the anterior cruciate ligament, it was the lateral collateral ligament. He thought he might be back in midseason last year, but was injured again in June during a reserve league match. He didn’t give up, even though when the Galaxy opened camp this year he was still struggling.
“At the beginning of preseason I wasn’t 100 percent but I had five games to get in shape and right now I’m hitting my stride and ready for the season,” the 25-year-old Leonardo said. “I don’t think about the knee, I think about the muscle mass on my knee and giving it enough rest.”
Even if Leonardo spent a substantial time of his rehab in Brazil, his work didn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s an incredible story, really,” fellow defender Todd Dunivant said. “He hasn’t played in two years, more or less Not only that, he’s hardly trained in those years. He’s had a great preseason, he’s built up slowly and he’s gotten the trust of our coach, of his teammates and he’s done fantastic. He was rock solid. He always is.”
Before they could start their season, the Galaxy were called upon to receive their MLS Cup championship rings. Many times, this emotional moment can get in the way of performance, but these guys have been there, done that.
“We were real eager to get out there, get that ceremony over with and play,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “That was good focus on behalf of the team and obviously they did well today.”
Arena was flashing his bling, semi-subtly, at the postgame press conference. None of the players chose to show them off in the locker room.
Their smiles spoke volumes as AEG president Tim Leiweke was there to oversee the proceedings.
“Tim Leiweke pulled me up close and he said. ‘It only gets better each time, and they only get bigger.’ He’s right,” veteran defender Todd Dunivant said. “This is a monster ring.”
It was pointed out to Dunivant that it couldn’t be better than the ring that was slipped on his finger in January, when he was married. He quickly agreed, but pointed out that a recent injury prevented him from wearing the wedding ring.
“A likely story,” someone said.
“I know, she’s not believing it,” Dunivant said, laughing. “I got a doctor’s note, so it’s true.”