As part of the lead up to Alumni Night on August 17 when the LA Galaxy will honor the team from the inaugural 1996 MLS season prior to the match against Real Salt Lake, LAGalaxy.com’s Adam Serrano will have a variety of content that focuses on the Galaxy players of yesteryear.
First up is our “Where Are They Now” segment focusing on former Galaxy center back Robin Fraser, who is now an assistant coach with the New York Red Bulls.
A true Galaxy original, Robbie Fraser was one of the first players to join the Los Angeles Galaxy in their inaugural season.
The center back from Miami, Florida was the Galaxy’s first selection—fourth overall—in the 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft by then-head coach Lothar Osiander.
From the outset, Fraser served as a fulcrum in the Los Angeles defense as he partnered up with the Galaxy’s first captain Dan Calichmann. Fraser started 27 of the Galaxy’s 32 matches and helped lead a back line that allowed 53 goals on the season—the fourth fewest in MLS.
“Robin was this center back that I looked up to because his ability to maintain composure with the ball and while defending was sublime,” said Alexi Lalas, who served as defender for New England Revolution in 1996. “It wasn’t that he was just fast or physical, but the cerebral part of Robin’s game was ultimately what made him great and why I wanted to watch him.”
With the Western Conference’s best record of 19-13 and 49 points in hand at the end of the season, Fraser and the Galaxy marched through the West defeating the San Jose Clash and Kansas City Wiz to reach the MLS Cup Final. The defender served as the captain in the final against D.C. United with Calichman suspended due to yellow card accumulation, but the Galaxy surrendered a 2-0 lead and fell 3-2 in extratime in a game that was played amid a constant downpour.
Even though that first season ended in disappointment, it was memorable experience for Fraser, who was able to see the professional soccer rise from the ashes.
“It was a dream start after watching the NASL die as a high school senior and thinking that professional soccer was done and dusted, and we weren’t going to see it in the U.S. again. Not knowing what kind of future that you had in this game that you wanted to play so badly and then watching the emergence of the league,” said Fraser. “I’m sure that not everyone had the experience that we had in Los Angeles, for us, it was a dream start, dream support, and a dream season. The season went every bit as well as we ever could have dreamed right until the last 17 minutes of the final.”
Fraser’s career continued to move forward as he remained with the Galaxy until 2000, eventually winning the MLS Defender of the Year in 1999 and earning MLS Best XI nods in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. He captained the Galaxy back to MLS Cup in 1999, but he was forced off the field inside the opening 10 minutes with a broken collarbone as the Galaxy once again fell to D.C. United, losing 2-0. He eventually moved to the Colorado Rapids, and eventually the Columbus Crew where he picked up yet his second MLS Defender of the Year award in 2004 before retiring a year later.
His playing days complete, these days, Fraser is looking to further his career as a coach in MLS. Considered the league’s top assistant alongside Jason Kreis from 2007 to 2010, Fraser served as the defensive specialist for a team that allowed just 20 goals—setting an MLS record—during his final season with RSL.
From there, he accepted the head coaching gig at Chivas USA, replacing Martin Vasquez, who lasted just a single season. At Chivas, Fraser surrounded himself with many of the players from those old Galaxy squads like assistant coach Greg Vanney and technical director Simon Elliott.
However, his first head coaching gig in MLS did not go as planned as Chivas went 15-32-21 in his two years at the helm, which included a disappointing 14-game winless run in his final season. Ultimately, Fraser and the Rojiblancos parted ways, but the two-time defender of the year returned to coaching almost immediately, as he was hired by the New York Red Bulls to serve as an assistant coach to Mike Petke.
“As assistant coach, I help a lot with the training sessions and we spend a lot of time discussing what we want from the team and once that idea is brought about then we talk about shaping it,” said Fraser. “Mike has done a great job of leading this team to where we are at this point. Hopefully, day in and day out, we can put ourselves in positions to win.”
As he looks to continue his growth as a coach, Fraser is optimistic that another head coaching job will come and he admits that each of his experiences has aided him in his development.
“What I’ve learned is that every situation is different. What worked with the Galaxy in 1996 did not work with the Rapids or Columbus. And what worked with Real Salt Lake is not necessarily going to work here or at Chivas,” Fraser said. “Every situation presents new challenges and I think that’s one of the interesting parts of this job because you go into a new situation and you have to figure out how to make the most out of it.
“The more that you can familiarize yourself with new and different scenarios and make them better, then the more that you make yourself more appealing in the long run because you make yourself better,” Fraser added. “That’s what it is about—everyday just trying to become better. It’s the same as a player and a coach.”
No matter where his career as a coach goes, Fraser holds his memories and the relationships gained with the Galaxy in the highest esteem.
“My years with the Galaxy were memorable for so many reasons. That’s where I was when MLS started, then you think of how the team started the support, and the community,” said Fraser. “All those things are huge as well as the relationships created there. It was the epitome of how teams should go about their business.
“Everyone was just there to win and work hard for each other. I feel like every single training session was competitive, every single game was competitive, and if you were going to play against the Galaxy then you were going to be in for a fight,” Fraser added. “I think that because of that, the amount of respect that we all had for each other, we may not always be very close friends, we’re genuinely happy to see each other when we do see each other.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com