Looking Back / Forward with Tommy
Favorite Moment, 2011:
Saturday, June 26, 2011
San Jose Earthquakes
Summary: A Beckham- and Donovan- less Galaxy squad find themselves goalkeeper-less right before halftime… and down a man to boot. Normal starter (and now Montreal netminder) Donovan Ricketts suffers a broken arm halfway through the first half and is replaced by his backup, Josh Saunders, who himself is shown a red card shortly before halftime. It’s tough to explain what exactly happened, so just watch it for yourself:
But this series of events was one of the best things to happen to Los Angeles all year. Here’s why:
The Rise of Mike Magee – And the Cult of Same
Mike Magee – previously known as the wunderkind-that-wasn’t – was a hard-working, tenacious midfielder acquired from New York shortly after Bruce Arena’s hiring. Magee was one of several midfielders filling the shoes left behind b Eddie Lewis, who retired at the end of the 2010 campaign. And he did that in a serviceable manner, if not in a remarkable one.
Until that sunny summer Saturday in San Jose, that is. On that day, Magee voluntarily donned Saunders’ oversized jersey and did more than his fair share for 50 minutes to hold Earthquakes scoreless, despite the 10-man Galaxy being outshot, 17-8.
Magee would win MLS Save of the Week honors for his effort, despite competing against teammate Ricketts, who himself was nominated for a save made earlier in the match.
And something started clicking for Mike Magee. Already an instant legend for his heroics in San Jose, Magee would go on a tear offensively as well. He would end the campaign with 10 goals across all competitions – a career high – including two goals in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Magee’s efforts weren’t without help from the back line, however. The Galaxy’s back line held up to 50 minutes of “power-play” onslaught from San Jose’s attack, allowing Earthquakes only 7/26 shots on goal for the entire game. If there was one game of the 2011 campaign that affirmed the strength of the Galaxy’s defense system, this game was it.
Introducing, Josh Saunders
He didn’t feature much in this game, but the injury to Ricketts paved the way for Saunders to show pundits across the league that he was a worthy #1. Saunders made the position his own upon his next start – two games later; he served a red card suspension from the match – and never looked back
San Jose. Heel. Villain. Love it.
To say the Los Angeles/San Jose rivalry was on life support since the original team’s departure for Houston would be an understatement. A resuscitated Earthquakes franchise could not generate the levels of vitriol in Los Angeles fans that was required to keep the California Clasico relevant.
Steven Lenhart’s headbutt/dive/flop-thing changed that.
And that is a good thing. So, thanks, Mr. Lenhart… for something?
Looking Forward to 2012
This trophy is the most immediate – and some would say most important – goal of Galaxy’s 2012 campaign. This Galaxy squad – already touted as possibly the strongest side fielded in MLS history – is the league’s best hope for lifting continental silverware this year. I expect Bruce Arena to de-emphasize their league play until the conclusion of CCL play (preferably with trophy in-hand). But I also believee Los Angeles has the potential to make this campaign a history one by capturing CCL, Open Cup, and MLS Cup silverware in the same calendar year. A third-straight Supporter’s Shield win is also in the realm of possibility, too, but I think it will be a down-to-the-wire finish if it happens, thanks to shifted priorities, national team callups, and a very high strength of schedule. It could very well be that a tight SS finish – or not winning it at all – may be the cost of going after multiple championship titles.
And let’s not forget: the possibility of Donovan, Beckham and Keane (not to mention possibly DeLaGarza and Buddle) being called into WCQ, Olympic, and Euro matches will make the MLS league campaign one of the most challenging of Bruce Arena’s career. But if anyone’s up to the job of managing a heavy schedule and the resources available to him to navigate it, it’s Arena. Do it well and I suspect he’ll be the odds-on favorite for coach-of-the-year. Again.