This week in SoCal soccer history

To mark the 15th season of MLS, I decided a series of retrospective posts was in order.

If you missed the inaugural edition, check it out here.

Here’s edition number two:



*The Galaxy played their first-ever game April 13, 1996 at the Rose Bowl.

Back then I was working for the LA Times in Ventura County and was still a fan rather than sitting in the press box. In the run-up to the game that week The Times reported a crowd of 25,000 was possible. A day or two later, the potential crowd was up to 30,000-35,000 or so if I recall correctly. The last thing I heard was that an attendance of 40,000 to 45,000 people was not out of the question.

As it was the crowd reached 69,255 (the Galaxy weren’t as good as padding their attendance figures in those pre-AEG days or it would have been reported as 70,000-plus), my car over-heated in the traffic jam on the way to the game and we didn’t get into the stadium until halftime.

The place was so packed actually finding your seat was hopeless. It was difficult to see the game. And I didn’t care.

The result was largely irrelevant to me. More significantly, pro soccer was back.

As it was the Galaxy won 2-1 with Cobi Jones scoring that historic first goal and Iranian defender Arash Noamouz the second in what would be his one and only season in MLS.

The starting XI (4-4-2): Jorge Campos, Mark Semioli, Dan Calichman, Robin Fraser, Arash Noamouz, Cobi Jones, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Chris Armas, Manny Motajo, Harut Karapetyan (Andrew Shue came on for him as a 65th minute sub!), Eduardo Hurtado.

Lesson learned: I never again attended a soccer game without buying a ticket in advance.

*On April 16 striker Ante Razov was waived by the Galaxy (he was re-signed a month later), while Greg Vanney was signed as a developmental player.


*On April 16 the Galaxy beat the then Dallas Burn 2-1 to start the season with a five-game unbeaten streak. Paul Caligiuri and Clint Mathis scored the goals, but most significantly (for me) it was my first time in a press box.

By then I was working at the Daily Breeze, but no-one on the sports staff cared particularly about soccer. So I volunteered to cover the occasional game, especially with the Galaxy pondering a move to the South Bay (Cal State Dominguez Hills officials attended this game as invited guests of the club). And I’ve been covering soccer ever since.


*On April 16 former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz returned to Home Depot Center for the first time since his March 30 trade to Dallas. He scored the deciding goal on an 85th minute penalty kick and Dallas added another in stoppage time to beat Chivas USA 3-1. The attendance was 12,697, which is pretty much what it was Saturday for the Chivas USA game at Home Depot Center. Sadly, not much progress being made there.

*On April 12 I wrote the first of my weekly Tuesday soccer columns that now appears in newspapers throughout Southern California. Subjects included notes on the new MLS reserve league (no admission fees, no parking) that started the previous weekend and televised UEFA Champions League games at the Stadium Club at Home Depot Center. The reserve league no longer exists and the Stadium Club is no longer open for lunch.

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This week in SoCal Soccer History

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.

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