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."