We did. And Allen Hopkins, maybe slowly at first, tried it on and seemed to agree.
“That’s a very fair comparison,” the ESPN MLS sideline reporter said. “You can draw parallels with the Steinbrenners and their conglomerate and what AEG is going with Tim Leiwecki is doing around the glove. I know AEG and the Yankees have talked about doing business down the road.”
Hopkins thought about it more.
“That’s a great comparison.”
Think more: The Galaxy made the playoffs in the first 10 years of the MLS. Then they missed the last two seasons. This year, they had the off-the-field controvery between their two stars, David Beckham and Landon Donovan, over a book. Suddenly, the team plows its way to the Western Conference title and is one win away from getting back to the MLS Cup.
Kinda like the Yankees, winning so much at the end of the ’90s, then having a dry spell, then winning the World Series earlier this month with their A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, et. al., filled roster.
“I know the Galaxy has two rings and would love 25 more. But that’s the thing — can you buy a championship?” said Hopkins. “I know a lot of people in the MLS want to see the big-picture, sexy model survive because we know we can always get those gritty, gutty feel-good teams. It’s time people want to see the most-hated team in the Galaxy. For years, they felt the Galaxy got the breaks and advantages. You probably feel the same way about the Yankees.”
We’ll see how it plays out when the Galaxy faces Houston at Home Depot Center in the Western Conference final, with a shot of playing in Seattle for the Nov. 22 MLS Cup.
Hopkins, the West Hills resident who used to cover the Galaxy more intensely — he was the FSN West game analyst from 2003 through 2006, actually getting an MLS title ring with the team in ’05 — has more to say in a quick Q-and-A before you find him again on the sidelines reporting on Friday’s game (8 p.m., ESPN2, opposite ESPN’s coverage of the Lakers-Nuggets game from Denver):
== More on the Galaxy-Yankee comparison:
“The Galaxy was he team that put the MLS on the global media map because of Beckham. I know a lot of people internally will not admit it, but they hope to have people eat crow if a team like the Galaxy wins. This season was ripe to implode from the start but they got down to it and I knew at the end of the day, they’re such special players that they knew they’d have to work together. That goal sequence (in last Sunday’s Galaxy-Chivas game, leading to the Galaxy penalty kick) was a world-class run and ball from Beckham, and a first-class touch by Landon getting it to (Mike) Magee in a good spot — that wasn’t so much different from a Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol finding a Trevor Ariza to finish it.
== On whether he feels any kind buzz in the soccer community about Friday’s game:
“I do. You know what it is? In L.A., it’s easy not to be a soccer apologist, to be connected to the game. In other parts of the cuontry, you have to justify and fly the flag. I do sense a buzz. The players are very excited about playing at home — especially on Friday the 13th. It’ll be fun. Given the crowd last Sunday, when the Galaxy do it right, it’s a marquee place. Houston will play the underdog, but you know the league wants to see L.A. in Seattle with Beckham.
“You may begrudge Beckham, but as a player, he’s excellent. And at the end of the day, they’re just playing soccer, not having a photo shoot or a run from the paparazzi obstacle course. He’ll win his matchups if you don’t pressure him. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. (Scottish midfielder) Stuart Holden on the Dynamo roster could be the next big thing in U.S. soccer. They’ll have a handful of very good and some excellent players and that’s a good formula.”
== On whether the previous two Galaxy-Houston games — a 1-0 Galaxy win at home; a 0-0 draw in Houston — provide a good indicator for what could happen Friday:
== I don’t think so because when I look at those two games, neither the coaches nor the players will take much stalk in it. The regular season and the playoffs are such different animals. The best team isn’t always the one that wins. It’s the hot team. Both these teams could have won the conference title up until the last game. On the other side, Real Salt Lake needed a win to get in. Here, you have two teams that put all the excuses and the reasons of the regular season behind them.
“I do expect a very tight and cloase game, though. The defensive mistakes you saw the Galaxy make (in the first leg against Chivas), they made amends in the second game. The one thing about Houston — they lost eight times in the regular season, all by one goal. They never got blown out, nor did they blow anyone out. They have a very veteran approach. I won’t be surprised if it takes more than 90 minutes to play this on Friday. They’re experienced enough to know about the emotions. And sometimes, these conference championship games are more fun to watch than the actual championships themselves. They can be more intriguing. I know in games like this I’d have a hard time keeping the contents of my stomach down. The teams that are successful acknowledge it’s a big game, but they look at it as a normal game.”