It all went terribly wrong for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night as they were humbled 3-0 by the Columbus Crew to open the 2005 MLS season.
Edson Buddle and Ante Razov combined for the three goals -- both of Buddle's coming as he was left completely unmarked.
"I don't want to take anything away from the Columbus Crew, but our marking wasn't where it needed to be," said Galaxy coach Steve Sampson.
Sampson largely rebuilt the Galaxy in the offseason and had little preparation time in the days leading up to the opener with many of their players involved in World Cup qualifiers during the previous week.
"Our marking had a lot to do with guys not being able to train together. Michael Umana was away with his national team. Chris (Albright) and Kevin (Hartman) were away. There was obviously a lot of miscommunication," said Sampson.
Still, after playing against the wind for the first half, the Galaxy felt like they were in good position after the break.
"Even after the goal they scored in the first half, I thought we regained our composure, ironed out our rhythm, and created a few chances," said Sampson.
But any good feelings quickly evaporated as Buddle was left completely alone to get on to the end of a Razov free kick and nudge it into the net.
"I thought that the one-goal deficit after the first (half) wasn't so terrible to overcome since we were playing against the wind," said Sampson. "The early goal in the second half was unacceptable."
Sampson had not been able to have his entire team together until the day before the match -- then things changed drastically with the trade of Carlos Ruiz to FC Dallas to obtain the allocation they used to sign Landon Donovan on his return to MLS.
"There were a lot of changes just in the last few days. Guys had to fly to Costa Rica to get their visas and come in literally last night at one in the morning," said Sampson.
But all the wear and tear on Donovan took its toll, and he was unable to play in the opener, suffering from flu-like symptoms.
"We found out that Landon would be unable to play at the last second," Sampson said. "The guys were excited about having him be part of the team and excited about what he could bring to the team."
His opponents on Saturday evening had mixed feelings on his absence. When asked about his feelings on Donovan missing the game, Crew coach Greg Andrulis first began to dance. However, he quickly expressed concern for Donovan and disappointment for the Crew players and fans.
"We were actually disappointed. He is one of the best players in the U.S. and we always want to play against the best. I understand that he is under the weather and that is unfortunate," said Andrulis. "It is also unfortunate because it is their only visit to Columbus this year. I think it is great for the league that he is back and I wish he was out there tonight. He will make a big difference for the league and the Galaxy."
But 2004 MLS Defender of the Year Robin Fraser was still somewhat thankful. "Any day that you don't have to go up against a player like that, it is a good day. I am sure Landon will make his mark on the league as he has done in the past."
Although Donovan's presence would have surely helped the Galaxy attack, the Los Angeles outfit has some concerns heading into their home opener next Saturday against Real Salt Lake.
"Probably the most positive is that I know what we need to work on for the next game," said Sampson. "A lot of it is going to involve our marking responsibilities in the back."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.