Fast Starters

Fast start revives memories of past glories

Donovan Takes Corner kick

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

How
good is the LA Galaxy's 7-0-1 start in 2010?

One
has to go all the way back to the inaugural MLS season of 1996 and then in 1998
to find anything in club history as impressive as this year's early season record.

The
Galaxy started 1996 with 12 victories in their first 12 games and didn't suffer
their first loss until late June against Colorado.
Los Angeles
finished 19-13 that season, clinched first place in the West but lost to Bruce
Arena’s D.C. United in extratime of that year’s MLS Cup. That year’s Galaxy
team featured the likes of Eduardo Hurtado (21 goals and 7 assists), Mauricio
Cienfuegos (5 goals and 11 assists) and Cobi Jones (7 goals and 4 assists) leading
the attack while goalkeeper Jorge Campos, who provided as much substance as
style, marshaled the club’s defense.

Two
years later, the Galaxy were 9-0 (though one win came via the shootout) before
losing to Chicago
in late May. That was a Galaxy team known for their offensive prowess -- they
set a league record for goals scored with 85 -- and featured the likes of Jones
(a team-high 19 goals and 13 assists) and Clint Mathis, who had 5 goals and 10
assists.

Now
it is 2010 and the Galaxy are sizzling again, thanks to the stunning exploits
of Edson Buddle, who has an MLS-high nine goals, Landon Donovan's league-high
nine assists at one end of the pitch and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who
already has six shutouts and has allowed just two goals all season at the other.

Jones
and Mathis, asked to compare this team with those earlier editions, found it
difficult to do. In Mathis' case, it was hard for him because he simply
couldn't think back that far.

"I
have no idea what happened that year," he joked about 1998. "That was
a season we had 80-something goals, I think. We had a lot of guys scoring left
and right. It's two different eras and too hard to remember exactly how we
started.

"You
got me on that one."

He
did remember some of the players -- including Dan Calichman, Paul Caligiuri,
Danny Pena and Greg Vanney -- but not much else.

"I
don't ever keep up with records anyway," Mathis said.

Jones,
on the other hand, remembers both of those seasons vividly, particularly during
the early part of the '96 schedule when it seemed the Galaxy could do no wrong.

"When
you're 12-0," he said, "your confidence builds and you're playing
well. It was such a different time ... back then you still had shootouts to
finish off games. But once you get to that level of 12-0, you start feeling
you're going to have a good season and everything is going your way and you
wonder how long the streak is going to go.

"In
1998, that was another great one. We obviously scored a lot of goals that year
and we were a powerhouse. That was more along the lines of what we have this
year. The play of that team was as strong as it is right now. Back then we kept
winning and building our confidence and taking care of the little things."

Jones
said the confidence of this year's team reminds him of the level of 1998, but
he's been especially impressed with this year's team being able to get results.

"Even
on the road," he said. "We're making the most of our chances and
we're very steady in the back. If you do those two things, it makes you a very
good team."

It
was only a year ago when the Galaxy were 1-1-6 at this point of the season and
in sixth place in the Western Conference, 13 points behind front-running Chivas
USA.
But Jones doesn't like to compare this year and that one.

"I
don't look back at all," he said. "We're a good team now and we knew
we were a good team then, too."