Earlier this season, Adam Serrano talked to members of the Galaxy's 2002 MLS Cup Championship team as well. Read the 2002 edition of "Through Their Eyes" here.
On Saturday, the LA Galaxy will go for their fourth MLS Cup title as they face the Houston Dynamo in MLS Cup 2012.
In another edition of “Through their eyes”, we look at a team who traveled a similar journey to this year’s Galaxy team, the 2005 MLS Cup winners.
THE YEAR BEFORE
Prior to the 2005 season, the LA Galaxy had undergone a dramatic overhaul as an organization. Midway through the 2004 season, Galaxy general manager Doug Hamilton dispatched head coach Sigi Schmid as he sought to revitalize a team that had gone winless in their last five matches in favor of Steve Sampson.
STEVE SAMPSON: “I said, you’re in first place and you have a good coach in Sigi Schmid. He said well, the offer is on the table and you have 24 hours to accept it. The reason that he was giving 24 hours was he knew that I had an interview with Real Salt Lake the next day. I thought about it and spoke to my family and obviously, I decided to stay in my home in Agoura Hills so for my family, it was a great opportunity. As a friend of Sigi’s, I had real mixed emotions, but the reality is that Doug was going to make the change anyway. I really don’t know the reasons why, but he just felt that it was a time (for a change).”
PETER VAGENAS: Sigi had been my coach at that point for eight years running so me personally, it was a big change and for the team as well. Sigi obviously being an all-time great, there was a lot of questions and uncertainty because after winning 2002, we didn’t do what we set out to do. I guess uncertainty was the biggest theme of that year.
COBI JONES: “There were a lot of changes going on in that season, there was a lot of transition, and everyone was trying to figure out what was going on. New coach, there were players coming in, everything seemed wide open, but it was a little bit more on the nerve wracking side than anything else because of the negative changes going into that season.”
LANDON DONOVAN: “2005 was a special year for me because I was able to come home to LA to play for the Galaxy. The year wasn't ideal in a lot of ways but something clicked once the playoffs started. We weren't the most talented team in the league that year but we were best when it mattered most.”
Brought on to replace Schmid midway through the 2004 season, the former U.S. National Team head coach, Sampson, brought in a number of players including Landon Donovan, Todd Dunivant and Pablo Nagamura to bolster the squad.
SAMPSON: “For me to take over the Galaxy, it was an incredible honor and a great opportunity. The expectations were very, very high and the standard was set high. One of the things that Doug Hamilton told me was that the Galaxy were all about winning trophies and I took that to heart. It meant that we’re going to give you a two-year contract and if you haven’t won a trophy in two years, well then basically we’re going to be saying good-bye to you too. Quite frankly, I’d rather be part of an organization that gives you all the resources to win and has expectations to win then one that doesn’t, so for me it was a tremendous honor and challenge.”
VAGENAS: “He was fantastic, I can’t say enough; the bond that team created is unlike anything that I’ve ever felt. That is one of the teams that are still intertwined and that group of players still talks to one another. It was a different feeling because it surpassed soccer.”
JONES: “I think he did a good job of relating to the players and letting people know where they stood. It was obviously difficult for him getting used to that, but he definitely set up a communication with the older players and the staff of the team. That was important especially if there were a lot of changes going on.”
A legend in his native Honduras after a long career with Municipal, Guillermo “Pando” Ramirez signed with the club at the start of the season and was quickly touted as one of the club’s finest talents. However, what transpired was a disaster as he struggled through the season, leading the team with 62 shots, but scoring only one goal all season, which came off a penalty kick.
SAMPSON: “I had seen him when I was in Costa Rica and we had played against the other CONCACAF national teams and one of the things that I wanted to do was bring players with experience as well as a strong player in midfield that could hold the ball up for us and Pando offered all of that. One of the things that I always liked about him was that he could always put the ball in the back of the net. However, he just couldn’t finish so it became increasingly more frustrating for him and for the players to even agree for him to be on the field. It got so frustrating for him that he and Nagamura had a fight in training one day that was all that pent up frustration that came to a head.”
VAGENAS: “If I were to be quite honest, he was one of the most talented soccer players in the league hands down. That might surprise some people to hear me say that, but unquestionably one of the most talented players in the league and one of those players that had a hard time of fitting into MLS. I remember one time we had an exhibition against Real Madrid and I remember watching Pando on the field and at that time, there wasn’t a better player on the field.”
JONES: “He was a nice guy; obviously he struggled throughout the season. There were definitely issues because he was a new guy coming into the team, highly touted and he didn’t live up to the expectation. I think that weighed on him a lot as a player. No matter, you try to give him support and try to prop him up, but if he hasn’t scored a goal and all the talk is how he hasn’t scored a goal or done anything then it’s going to be difficult. Then it doesn’t matter what you say, even if you’re trying to help because it’s making it a little bit worse because he doesn’t want to hear it anymore. Then him, coming from a different culture and not speaking the language, it makes it difficult … it takes times for players to get used to this league and I think that weighed on him throughout.”
DONOVAN: “Pando was a great guy and always fun to be around. He was a bit of a jokester and the guys really liked him. I remember Steve asking some of us about what we thought about Pando being used as a substitute to possibly give us a boost off the bench in the Final. We all agreed that he had the potential to pull off a special play and that's exactly what he did.”
TODD DUNIVANT: “He was great because he always had a smile on his face. He played in front of me as the left midfielder that year. He scored a goal when we let him take a penalty; the shot went off the post and off Joe Cannon’s back for his goal during the regular season, which was pretty funny.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com