MLS Cup win could put LA into "best-ever" conversation
CARSON, Calif. – Statistics speak loudly, and the numbers the LA Galaxy have amassed in 2011 are making quite a racket.
So much so that with a victory against Houston in Sunday’s MLS Cup, the 2011 LA Galaxy side could go down as the best team in MLS history.
It may not be a stretch to think that, particularly since the Galaxy have the second-most points in league history, lost just five games and allowed a meager 28 goals in 2011.
So how does this team stack up with the rest of the elite clubs in the league’s history?
“Couldn’t even compare it,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I don’t even know how you do that.”
Arena would not even consider whether this Galaxy team is as good as or better than any of the previous 15 league champions, although he has been at the helm of some other standout clubs in his MLS career.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Arena said. “I have no idea how you even begin that discussion.”
Still, Arena knows what it takes to build a champion. He was in charge of the first two MLS Cup champions, as D.C. United instantly built a league powerhouse in 1996. With the likes of Marco Etcheverry, John Harkes, Eddie Pope and Jaime Moreno at his disposal, Arena found instant success and built a club that is still considered one of, if not the best, team in league history.
“I think I had 10 internationals at D.C. United,” Arena said.
Arena took over the Galaxy late in the 2008 season and, almost as quickly as he did in 1996, built up a powerhouse. The Galaxy reached MLS Cup in 2009, won the Supporters’ Shield in 2010 and have done both now as all the pieces of the puzzle have, thus far, come together.
When comparing his two powerhouse clubs – the 1997 D.C. United squad that pulled the Shield/Cup double and his current LA Galaxy side – Arena gave a little nudge toward one team.
“The only thing I would say – because sometimes you can say that you’re comparing apples to oranges – is that’s an era where there are 10 teams,” Arena said of his ’97 club. “And this is 18 teams so it’s a lot harder, I would think. Wouldn’t one think that would be harder?”
The alternative argument is that clubs may have been stronger in the league’s early days. But with too many factors and criteria going into the debate, Arena said it’s not worth debating.
“In the old days – believe me, [Roberto] Donadoni, Etcheverry, [Carlos] Valderrama could play in this league today,” he said. “I don’t know how you compare any of that stuff. I can never figure it out. Are the Yankees from the ‘60s better than the Yankees today? How the hell do you answer that question?”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org