When Carlos Ruiz was traded to FC Dallas before the start of the 2005 season, he took with him 50 career MLS goals. Those goals came over three seasons and 72 games, and Ruiz was by far the leading goalscorer in Major League Soccer over that time.
But that also seemed to be the problem. When Ruiz left, the predictability of the Los Angeles Galaxy offense left with him. Last year opposing defenses could focus on Ruiz, and then defend well on set pieces to effectively slow down the Galaxy attack.
The ploy worked too, as Ruiz was held to an MLS career-low 11 goals, and the Galaxy stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing the Western Conference lead to Kansas City last season down the home stretch.
This year things have changed. The addition of Landon Donovan and the strong play of Jovan Kirovski as a target striker have opened up space for other players to get involved.
One player whose offensive exploits this season have surprised everyone is Pete Vagenas. If not for a pesky crossbar against Real Salt Lake, the Pasadena native would have three goals already this year, tying a career-high.
"It's obvious it's something we've concentrated on," said Vagenas. "The more people we can get involved in the offense the harder it is to stop us."
Another player who has seen a scoring renaissance this year is Cobi Jones. After spending more than a year off the scoring charts in MLS, the speedy veteran has also notched two goals this year.
Jovan Kirovski knows that the work he does up top is helping to create the opportunities for Jones and Vagenas.
"With Landon's speed, Cobi and Pete coming out of midfield, we're a dangerous team going forward," Kirovski said.
Dangerous indeed. In four games, four different players have scored -- three of which have hit for multiple goals.
With the exception of Week 1 in Columbus, where the team was battling wind, rain, and snow, no defense has been able to stop Los Angeles.
Steve Sampson has been watching his team grow since the preseason and is now starting to see the players he chose to bring to L.A. make his system work.
"These guys don't care about who they play. It's all about coming out and playing better every game," said the Galaxy boss.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story is not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.