CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas clearly remembers watching last year’s MLS Cup between the Galaxy and Houston Dynamo.
He had more than a passing interest in the game, an eventual 1-0 Galaxy victory, because he was about to sign with the club. He was enthralled by the atmosphere and wondered what it might be like to take part in such a showcase event.
He’ll get that chance on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., when the Galaxy and Dynamo stage a much-anticipated rematch at The Home Depot Center (ESPN, Telefutura).
“It’s amazing and a pleasure to be in this situation,” he said after training this week. “When the season starts, of course you do everything every day to be in this place.
“You’re so grateful to be here.”
The 31-year-old is no stranger to the game’s biggest stages. Saturday’s showdown will mark his third final in less than a year.
The first two were with his former club, L.D. Alajuelense, in Costa Rica’s Primera Division. He helped lead the Costa Rican side to the 2010-2011 Verano title (equal to that league’s second-half championship), along with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League – where he caught the Galaxy’s attention – and then the 2011-12 Invierno, or first-half, crown.
The passion surrounding Costa Rican football, he said, is unmatched.
“It’s everywhere,” he said. “You don’t have another sport. It’s futbol, futbol and futbol. People sleep, eat and drink futbol.
“The week around the (final) the country just stops.”
The second final between Alajuelense and Herediano, Sarvas said, was more special because the clinching victory in the two-leg series was accomplished away to Herediano, the same team that LA will face in the Quarterfinals of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League next March. Sarvas even scored in that game which eventually was won on penalty kicks.
“I remember after the game, getting close to the airport, the road was full of cars following us. Maybe three or four kilometers from the stadium you couldn’t go anywhere,” he said. “We had to stop the (team) bus because the road was full of people. We jumped in an open truck and we celebrated for about three hours with the people.
“The passion of the people in Costa Rica is amazing. If you win, there is a huge celebration. If you lose it’s the opposite. But that’s part of the passion of the sport in the country.”
Sarvas also vividly recalls how nervous he was before his first final. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“You have to feel the butterflies in your stomach,” he said. “It’s part of what we’re doing as a player. If you don’t feel that, you’re not feeling the game, you’re not feeling where you are.
“It was very special.”
He said he anticipates a similar feeling on Saturday. And there’s only one way to make it worthwhile.
“To reach the final, you have to win. Second place means nothing,” he said. “Nobody knows who is the vice president or who was second place in the World Cup. Everybody knows who the champion is.
“We have a really good team and players who deserve to be here. I think it’s my turn to be a champion. I hope so.”