well, if you are a Galaxy fan that is. Ralph Perez and I announced the game on 1540 The Ticket and couldn't help but get drawn in to the electricity you fans brought to the evening. There were fans in gold, Chivas USA fans in the north east corner and standing room only on the berm. It was a playoff atmosphere in April. Congratulations to you, the fans, as you did very well.
Now to the game. As far as the goats are concerned, you can take the name, you can take the colors, but as of Saturday night you are still an expansion team looking for your first win in America's major league. The Galaxy clearly outclassed their little Los Angelino brothers. I was wondering if the Galaxy would come out a little flat since they have been off for two weeks, but coach Steve Sampson had the boys ready to go for this one -- very impressive from my vantage point.
The point of attack was changed with beautiful 50 yard balls off the foot of Pando Ramirez -- even Peter Vagenas got into the act in the second half with a nice ball to Cobi Jones. The overlapping runs by Chris Albright in the first half and Todd Dunivant kept the goats' defense scrambling to close the gaps all night long and thus Landon Donovan and Jovan Kirovski had space to create through the middle of the park. It was a clinic performed by the Green and Gold. The second half did get a bit sloppy as members of the home side looked to pad the stats, and they were one pass away on a number of occasions from springing Landon Donovan. 'El Pando' Ramirez missed on more than one opportunity.
It's great to see the old Cobi Jones again -- you know, the one who could play off the ball and make his runs down the wing or knife to the corner of the box. He just didn't have the luxury to be himself the last few years. We have seen it the last two games though, and Cobi has found the net in both affairs. Let's not forget, Jones also had an assist in the win Saturday. Stay healthy No. 13, and it looks like this could be a great season for you and your teammates. When Jones can float in and out of the run of play he's at his most dangerous.
Jovan Kirovski, No. 7 is the post up man this year. He works his tail off so others can make runs off the ball for scoring opportunities. Saturday night Kirovski got his first off a free kick from about 22 yards out. Big goal for Jovan.
Is it just me or does the field part like the Red Sea when Landon Donovan makes his runs down field. Without a doubt the best player in the United States today. His presence on the field allows for other teammates to become part of the attack. For example, Pete Vagenas got his first goal of the season thanks to a pass from Donovan. From my vantage point it looked like Peter V. was trying to return service to Donovan for an eventual shot but because the pass got tangled up in the defender's legs it returned to Vagenas who hammered it home. Because the defense collapsed on Donovan, Vagenas had not one, but two chances on the net: soon, it was 2-0 Galaxy and the home side were off and running. From my personal view, I'd love to see Vagenas become a little more selfish in and around the penalty area. Early in his career he could crack a shot from inside 25. It seems to me with this front line the Galaxy have, he will have more and more opportunities around the 18. Take the shot, Pete, especially against a rookie 'keeper.
I think outside of center forward and goalkeeper, Pando can play anywhere on the field. Not since Greg Vanney have we seen a Galaxy player so able to change the point of attack, and in Pando's case, he's a bit more accurate and with him playing wide left, his long balls push the Galaxy into goal-scoring opportunities more quickly. On a field 80 yards wide and with the speed the Galaxy have in Jones and Chris Albright on the right side, opposing teams already have their hands full. Ask Chivas USA's Orlando Perez and Douglas Sequeira. I just can't wait to see when Pando connects on one of his shots. He had 8 shots in Saturday's win against the goats. Pando, keep it low and away from the 'keeper, please. The bottom line is he is a great acquisition by the Galaxy coaching staff and front office and maybe the league's newcomer of the year. Great player.
A much more organized defense ... While the Galaxy play with four in the back once again this season, it seems much more organized in 2005. All four plus the goalkeeper seem on the same page. When Albright or Dunivant push into the offense on the flanks, the Galaxy go with three in the back. This is nothing new; that's been the plan over the last couple years. The difference so far has been that the Galaxy have the speed to handle this type of play and better understanding among teammates of their own responsibilities. However, I will say the back four need to do a better job on set plays. The goal scored by Ramirez was a bad one. If the defense pushes up at the time of what turned out to be a shot, Romo is offside and the Galaxy post a clean sheet in the victory. All right, I'm nitpicking. That's what former goalkeepers do. We want the goose egg.
Random thoughts... I noticed one player from the Goats not face the American flag during the National Anthem. How about a little respect, huh?
Best sign of the night ... "Goat Busters." I thought that was nice. It really felt like a great weekend of soccer for MLS to me. I love the Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday schedule. It keeps the league in the news four straight days across the weekend into Monday of the next week. Please, please please adopt this calendar in the future. A Friday night game, two national games on the ESPN networks, two national games on FSC Saturday and Sunday respectively. Perfect.
10 years of memories... Here are a few. Sixty-two thousand and change for opening night in 1996. I did the public address for that contest against the Metrostars. I was sitting next to then-owner Danny Villanueva and asked him prior to the match what kind of crowd he expected. His response, 30,000. What a sight it was to see fans removing the tarps from the Rose Bowl seats as they made their way in. I heard the final ticket sold was with about 2 minutes left in the match. Now that's a fan. But boy, were those uniforms ugly or what? The current kits are much better, thank goodness.
There was also the cold night at Soldier Field in Chicago when Mauricio Cienfuegos bent a ball inside 40 yards past a stunned Zach Thornton, off the post and in --- magical. And then in MLS Cup 2002, Albright clears a Joe Franchino attempt. The ball finds the Jamaican Sensation, Tyrone Marshall who streaks up the right wing. In stride he sends the ball across the goalmouth and Carlos Ruiz is there to hammer it home -- Champions! I still get goose bumps over that one.
Enjoy the Galaxy's Decade of Stars match Saturday at 5 p.m. PT. Cien, Paul Caligiuiri, Jorge Campos and the rest of the G's greats will take the pitch. Thank you to all the wonderful players for building this team and this league through its first decade.
And speaking of the Fish ... He and his new club FC Dallas come to town Saturday night. Ahem, first place FC Dallas? Crazy thought. I'm kidding. This is a very tough side. They've got Fishy, Eddie Johnson (one of America's best young players) and Ronnie O'Brien (watch out for that left foot), and, speaking of left feet, welcome back to the states Greg Vanney. Also, Richard Mulrooney in the midfield is big for the Bovine. By the way, are there any other farm animals in MLS?
I'm looking forward to the return of Carlos Ruiz to the HDC. Like the nice applause Ezra Hendrickson received during starting lineups, the Fish deserves his due as well. However, something went sideways over his final season and a half in Los Angeles, which was disappointing to say the least. The Fish is undoubtedly one of the best scorers in MLS. He was the best in his first year with the Galaxy. I'm afraid what is happening to him is what happened to the founding players in this league -- the talent is catching up and passing him. That's a sad commentary for a young player like Ruiz. I hope I'm wrong. I just wish I'd see the shark of the past and not the mermaid of the present flopping around. I expect to see the shark in Ruiz Saturday night and not for the words written here. He has something to prove, but I hope he knows now he has something to prove in every match he plays and not just against his former club.
I hope to see each and every one of you at The Home Depot Center at Cal State Dominguez Hills Saturday night. Remember, the Decade of Stars match will be at 5 p.m. PT with the kickoff of the main event between the Galaxy and FC Dallas at 7 p.m.. For tickets, call 1-877-3-Galaxy or go to www.lagalaxy.com. By the way, bring your walkman and enjoy our call on 1540 The Ticket. For now, I'm Joe Tutino -- your friendly voice of the Galaxy -- and that's how I see it from the broadcast booth.
Joe Tutino is in his seventh season as the English radio voice of the Los Angeles Galaxy. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, and not necessarily those of the Los Angeles Galaxy or Major League Soccer.