CARSON, Calif. – Based on their success from 2009 and 2010, the LA Galaxy entered the 2011 season as favorites to reach MLS Cup.
Already facing a load of high expectations and pressure to win from the outside, players felt that tenfold from management once the final was awarded to the Home Depot Center.
And when it was all said and done, the Galaxy met – then exceeded – those lofty expectations en route to winning MLS Cup 2011 in front of their own fans, in their own stadium.
“The biggest pressure-cooker was having the championship in LA, because all year we’re reminded by our owners that it better be us, it better be us here,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said. “Having that in the back of your heads … we knew we had to be in this game and we knew we had to win it. It’s surreal.”
Galaxy teams from 2009 and 2010 came close to winning MLS Cup, but penalty kicks and a loss in the Western Conference Championship did those sides in.
That only built the pressure. It carried over from those years, especially with this being the final season of David Beckham’s five-year contract. Whether or not it was an all-or-nothing proposition, it certainly felt like it to the team.
Once the whistle blew to kick off the match, though, that pressure was all but gone as the players were able to do what they did best all season.
“Our mindset was definitely ‘focus,’” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. “Everyone was on the same page, everyone knew that if we just brought the right work ethic we were going to get the win. We were fighting the whole game, we pressed them the whole game, we didn’t sit back and we showed well, played good soccer.”
Even management acknowledged the immense pressure that was put on the players.
“From Day 1, and I did [pressure them],” AEG president Tim Leiweke said when asked about the expectations he put on the team. “They did it from Day 1 and I’m proud of them because they never, ever backed down from that commitment we made to each other.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org