2004 Season in Review
Final Record: 11-9-10, 43 pts. (Second, Western Conference)
THE 2004 MLS SEASON: The Los Angeles Galaxy finished the 2004 regular season as the second place team in Major League Soccer's (MLS) Western Conference, ending the season with a 11-9-10 record and collecting 43 points in the process. Los Angeles jumped out to a fast start, going unbeaten in their first four games before finishing at 7-5-3, 24 pts over the first 15 games. It was stalwart forward Carlos Ruiz and off-season acquisitions, forward Jovan Kirovski and midfielder Andreas Herzog that sparked the club's start combining for 16 goals and seven assists for a total of 39 points. All three were later voted to the 2004 MLS All-Star squad along, with teammates Chris Albright (MLS) and Cobi Jones (USA). In the second half, the Galaxy won their first two games before going winless over the next seven games (0-2-5) and posted a 4-4-7 record for 19 points. On August 18, Los Angeles appointed former USA and Costa Rica national team manager Steve Sampson as head coach. With seven games remaining in the season, Sampson needed only two games get his first victory (9/11) and went on to qualify the club for their League-record ninth berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. At The Home Depot Center, Los Angeles finished the season tied for the second best home record 8-2-5 (.700) in MLS. On the road, the Galaxy finished tied for the fourth best record in MLS at 3-7-5 (.367). The club finished second against Western Conference opponents with a 6-4-6 record (.563). The Galaxy led the league in attendance for second consecutive season and fifth time overall, averaging 23,809 (Up 8.8% from 2003) for a total of 357,147 fans at The Home Depot Center. In addition, the Galaxy became the first club in MLS history to draw more than 20,000 fans per game in thirteen of fifteen home games, including closing out the season with three consecutive sold out crowds for a total of five on the season.
ATTENDANCE AT THE TOP OF MLS AGAIN: For the second consecutive season, the Galaxy topped Major League Soccer in average attendance. After averaging an impressive 21,893 fans per regular season game in their inaugural season at The Home Depot Center in 2003, the club topped that mark by drawing 23,809 per contest in 2004. Overall, a total of 357,147 fans flocked to the Carson venue and sold out the building five times (4/10 vs. DC; 7/4 vs. SJ; 9/11 vs. SJ; 10/2 vs. KC; 10/9 vs. DAL) and drew more than 20,000 to 13 of 15 home games during the Regular Season.
KIROVSKI AND HERZOG SIGNED TO BOLSTER ATTACK: After seeing his team struggle to score goals during the 2003 regular season, Galaxy President and General Manager Doug Hamilton set out to all points of the globe to find some offensive help. As it turned out, that help would come from the top leagues in England and Austria. First, the Galaxy brought home Escondido, California native and U.S. national team member Jovan Kirovski, who was playing with Birmingham City of the British premiership. The 28-year-old Kirovski, playing in the USA for the first time in his career after 13 years in Europe, was a coup for the club as they looked to add some support for Carlos Ruiz. Soon after signing Kirovski, the Galaxy announced that they had also inked Austrian midfielder Andreas Herzog, an attacking-minded player with significant international experience for both club and country. Both would reap dividends for the Galaxy in 2004 - with the team finishing in the top three in MLS in goals scored with 42 total markers for the campaign.
CHRIS ALBRIGHT'S MOVE BACK A BIG STEP FORWARD: Given the chance to change the path of his career on both the club and international level, Galaxy forward Chris Albright decided to change positions. Albright, who admitted he had not played on the back line since sixth grade, took the recommendation of U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, who advised him to take up a spot on the back line for both club and country. Albright made the change to right back in the off-season and immediately began to reap the results - Arena called him in to the USA's friendly against Denmark at The Home Depot Center in January and was impressed with what he saw. When it came time for the Galaxy to open their pre-season training camp, he was again in the backline - and again seeming very much at home. He was so comfortable in the back in fact, that he was named a starter for the Western Conference at the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game - the first time in his six-year career to have that honor bestowed upon him.
HARTMAN NABS ALL-TIME GOALKEEPER WIN RECORD: Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's victory against the San Jose Earthquakes on the evening of September 11 at The Home Depot Center gave him 92 in his career - putting him all alone atop the MLS career list for regular season wins. Hartman had shared the previous mark with the Kansas City Wizards' Tony Meola, who like Hartman, is one of only three shot-stoppers in League history to post at least 40 career regular season shutouts.
MORENO SCORES GOALS ON HIS FIRST FIVE SHOTS OF 2004: To say Galaxy forward and Venezuelan International Alejandro Moreno started his season quickly would be an understatement of epic proportions. Relegated to substitutes' duty for much of the first month of the season in the battle for playing time with Carlos Ruiz and Jovan Kirovski, Moreno broke out in a big way in May. The 24-year-old scored his first goal of the year after a scramble in front of goal in New England on May 1. Moreno added his second tally on May 15 against Colorado after coming into the match for an injured Ruiz, setting up one of the most unlikely days for a player in MLS history. Paired with rookie Joseph Ngwenya as the Galaxy met D.C. United at RFK Stadium on May 19, Moreno exploded for a hat trick within eight minutes to not only give the Galaxy an insurmountable lead, but also to guarantee him of a goal on each his first five shots of the season - establishing an MLS record.
GALAXY AND BRAZILIAN CLUB SAO PAULO INK LANDMARK DEAL: The Los Angeles Galaxy and São Paulo Futebol Clube signed an agreement of International Protocols on March 31, 2004, in a deal designed to develop a new level of relationship between clubs on different continents. Simultaneously in Los Angeles and São Paulo, Doug Hamilton, President and General Manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Marcelo Portugal Gouvêa, President of São Paulo Football Club announced the implementation of some facets of the International Protocols, which called for a deeper level of collaboration involving coaching, player development, sports medicine, marketing, facility construction and facility management. As part of the international relationship, Los Angeles acquired midfielder Marcelo Saragosa on loan from Sao Paulo. The 22-year-old Saragosa is a gifted midfielder who was a member of the Sao Paulo system since 1998. The clubs also held a summit to exchange ideas in early June in Carson, capped off by a friendly match, won by Sao Paulo 1-0.
STEVE SAMPSON NAMED GALAXY'S FOURTH HEAD COACH: Galaxy President and General Manager Doug Hamilton named Steve Sampson head coach of the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, August 18. Sampson, 47, became the fourth coach in club history, succeeding former coaches Sigi Schmid (1999-2004), Octavio Zambrano (1997-1999) and Lothar Osiander (1996-1997). Sampson, a former U.S. and Costa Rica national team coach, retained Galaxy assistant coach Martin Vasquez while adding another assistant coach Ignacio Hernandez, who recently worked under his direction for almost a year in a similar position with Costa Rica. Additionally, Sampson would later name Afshin Ghotbi, a member of the Korea Republic staff during FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002 to his technical staff.
FIRST FAREWELL MATCH IN CLUB HISTORY PLAYED AS GALAXY HONOR CIENFUEGOS: No doubt one of the biggest stars in MLS' nine-year history and also one of the League's biggest ambassadors to the Latino community over that time, former Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos was honored by the club with a farewell match at The Home Depot Center on Saturday, June 5. The game, which pitted a group of former Galaxy and MLS players against a team of former stars from his native El Salvador, was played prior to the Galaxy-Wizards match the same night. The game, played in two 35-minute halves, gave Galaxy fans one more chance to say goodbye to the Salvadoran midfielder, who played for the club from 1996-2003 and to see some of their favorite former Galaxy stars, including Carlos Hermosillo, Paul Caligiuri, and Eduardo Hurtado. Cienfuegos played one half for each side, starting the match with his club side before changing into the colors of his national team and was carried off the field at the final whistle, much to the delight of the fans.
April (2-0-2, 8 pts; Overall: 2-0-2, 8pts - 1st in West)
The Los Angeles Galaxy opened the 2004 MLS regular season with a bang on 4/3, defeating the New England Revolution, 3-2, in the club's first Season Opener at The Home Depot Center in Carson as forward Carlos Ruiz scored the club's first goal for the third consecutive season, setting a new standard in MLS. The Galaxy continued their early success at home on 4/10, playing to a 1-1 tie with D.C. United on the strength of a Ruiz goal. Fans filled a sold-out Home Depot Center coming out to watch the West Coast premiere of "The Freddy Adu show." A week later, the club traveled to Denver to play its first Western Conference opponent of the season, Colorado Rapids. The Galaxy's run of positive results continued with come-from-behind 1-1 tie vs. Rapids, Ruiz accounting for the lone tally. The club capped-off its undefeated month with a 2-0 defeat of the Columbus Crew at the Home Depot Center on 4/24, with Ruiz scoring both goals. The Guatemalan international finished the month with five goals and an assist, earning Honda MLS Player of the Month honors.
May (3-2-1, 10 pts; Overall: 5-2-3, 18 pts - 1st in West)
A road trip to Gillette Stadium on 5/1 meant defeat for the Galaxy for the first time in 2004, as Alejandro Moreno's late goal was not enough in a 2-1 loss to the Revolution. The club rebounded a week later, coming from behind after the interval thanks to two Jovan Kirovski goals to post a 3-1 win over the Dallas Burn on 5/8 at the Cotton Bowl. Returning to The Home Depot Center on 5/15, the Galaxy lost Ruiz to an ankle injury early in the game but held on for a 1-1 tie, thanks to Moreno's second goal of the month. On 5/19, Moreno made MLS history in the team's 4-2 road victory at D.C. United. The young Venezuelan scored on three straight shots, giving him goals on five straight to start the season and establishing a league mark. On 5/22, the Galaxy hit the road again, this time traveling to San Jose for the 2004's first renewal of the "California Clasico." Three goals after halftime for the hosts were too much for the Galaxy, who dropped a 4-2 decision despite a comeback effort. Undeterred by the loss, Los Angeles wrapped up the month with their second consecutive victory against the Burn on 5/29 in Carson as Kirovski again hit home twice. In all, Moreno finished the month with six goals and two assists, making him the second consecutive LA player to capture Honda MLS Player of the Month honors.
June (2-2-0, 6 pts; Overall: 7-5-3, 24 pts - 1st in West)
The Galaxy began the third month of the MLS season with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Kansas City Wizards at The Home Depot Center on 6/5. Staring the prospect of a second consecutive loss for the first time in 2004 in the face on 6/12, the Galaxy responded with a dramatic comeback, scoring two goals in the final ten minutes, including a stoppage-time header by Chris Albright, against the Chicago Fire to post a miraculous 3-2 win. The club next traveled to the MetroStars, where they fell 2-1 on June 19 - dropping that decision on a stoppage time goal. The Galaxy rebounded a week later, thanks to a 50-plus yard strike from Jovan Kirovski to shut-out the Chicago Fire, 1-0, and level their mark for June at 2-2 and remain atop the Western Conference for the third consecutive month.
July (2-0-3, 9 pts; Overall: 9-5-6, 33 pts - 1st in West)
The Galaxy kicked-off July with a bang at The Home Depot Center, defeating arch-rival San Jose, 2-1, on 7/4 in front of a sell-out crowd of 27,000 in Carson. Carlos Ruiz scored both goals to lead the hosts to the come-from-behind triumph. On 7/10 the Galaxy again found themselves on the plus-side of the ledger, defeating the Colorado Rapids 2-0, thanks to goals from Ned Grabavoy and Ruiz. The Galaxy then embarked on a three-week four- match road trip. In the first game of the trip on 7/14, the club battled the same Rapids team to a scoreless tie in Denver in 90-plus degree heat. A visit to Washington D.C. on 7/17 found the Galaxy trailing D.C. United 1-0 at the half, but Ruiz again put himself in the right place at the right time to convert a late penalty to give the visitors a well-deserved point. After returning home for two days of training, the club was off to Kansas City for their last match prior to the All-Star Break. Despite finding themselves in a 2-0 hole midway through the second 45 minutes, the Galaxy launched an amazing comeback that resulted in a 2-2 draw. Sasha Victorine opened the Galaxy's account 23 minutes from time, while Tyrone Marshall's header (his first goal as a member of the Galaxy) five minutes deep into stoppage time capped off the impressive, yet improbable comeback.
August (0-1-2, 2 pts; Overall: 9-6-8, 35 pts - T-1st in West)
The conclusion of the Galaxy's extended road trip after the All-Star Break did not quite go as the team had planned. After trailing the MetroStars by only a goal at the half, the visitors left Giants Stadium on 8/8 with a disappointing 3-0 loss. After a scoreless tie against the Columbus Crew the following weekend and clinging to first place in the Western Conference, the Galaxy relieved head coach Sigi Schmid of his duties on 8/16. Former U.S. national team Head Coach Steve Sampson was brought in to take the reins of the club two days later. After having only three training sessions to work with his new team, Sampson led the club to a 1-1 tie against the Chicago Fire - another late Carlos Ruiz tally giving the club a point as they headed into final two months of the regular season.
September (1-2-1, 4 pts; Overall: 10-8-9, 39 pts - T-2nd in West)
The Galaxy opened the penultimate month of the 2004 regular season with a road loss at the Columbus Crew on 9/4. Decimated by injury, suspensions and national team call-ups for World Cup qualifiers the Galaxy gave up a Ross Paule hat trick and dropped a 3-1 decision to the streaking home side. Returning home the following week for a match on 9/11 against the arch-rival Earthquakes, the Galaxy registered the first win of the Steve Sampson era, a 2-1 result that may have been the club's most convincing result of the season to that point. In their first of six consecutive games against Western Conference opponents to end the season, the hosts played inspired soccer from the outset. They opened their account on a Sasha Victorine marker before the half and added to it when Arturo Torres scored his first career MLS tally midway through the second half. Traveling to Dallas a week later, the Galaxy feel victim to a brace from U.S. youth international Eddie Johnson and dropped a 2-0 decision to the Burn on 9/18. The Galaxy concluded September with a dominating performance on the back line that resulted in a scoreless draw in San Jose on 9/25.
October (1-1-1, 4 pts; Overall: 10-9-12, 42 pts - 2nd in West)
The Los Angeles club kicked off October with a two-match homestand at The Home Depot Center against Western Conference opponents. With a chance to clinch a playoff berth on 10/2 against the Wizards, Steve Sampson's troops responded with a 1-1 in front of a sold-out home crowd and clinched a playoff berth. One week later, in their regular season home finale against the Burn, the Galaxy gave fans much to cheer for in a 2-0 win before those same fans were treated to a post-game fireworks spectacular. On the road to wrap up the regular season for the sixth consecutive time, Los Angeles traveled to Kansas City for another battle with the Wizards on 10/16, this time posting a 1-0 loss to finish the campaign in 2nd place in the Western Conference and make their way into a Western Conference semifinal playoff series against the Colorado Rapids.