This is part 2 of the three-part "Through Their Eyes" series on the Galaxy's 2005 MLS Cup Championship. READ PART 1 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 2005 season was a difficult one for the Galaxy, who had struggled throughout the season and squeaked into the postseason as the fourth place team in the Western Conference with 45 points from a record of 13-13-6. However, the Galaxy picked up steam late in the year, ultimately winning the 2005 U.S. Open Cup trophy. But the reasons for those struggles are up for debate.
JONES: “We struggled a lot during the season. We squeaked into the playoffs, it was a little bit of inconsistent play, a lot of national team duty, but with that every team has those duties so you can’t put that as the one excuse. Some players did not relate to the new coaching staff and the changes very well. There was a lot of transition because there were a few changes in the captaincy going on. That just throws everything out of whack for a little bit so it’s hard to get that rhythm. You get to a point in the season where you’re just focused on making that push to get into the playoffs and that’s pretty much what we did.”
VAGENAS: “One thing that I remember with Steve, and obviously I still enjoy a great relationship with him, but throughout a season, you’re going to have arguments with the coaching staff and what not. There was one point where we were having a heated discussion in his office and I said something to the effect of ‘don’t just take my advice, talk to the older players and Cobi.’ (Cobi) was gone with the national team and I think that Steve picked up the phone and threw it against the wall. Cobi was definitely gone at some points in the season because he wasn’t there that day.”
After slicing through the Western Conference, knocking off the San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids, the Galaxy reached MLS Cup 2005. At MLS Cup in the brand spanking new Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, the Galaxy met the Eastern Conference Champion New England Revolution, a club that had been in the final just three years earlier against LA. The Revolution boasted a number of talented players including MLS MVP forward Taylor Twellman and a young firebrand named Clint Dempsey among many others. The match was a physical one from the start as LA proved to be a great challenge for the favored Revolution.
JONES: “Everyone was talking about the Revolution and what a talented team that they were and everyone was probably expecting them to win. For us, we kind of relished that fact and we were the underdog and the lower seed pushing through to the final, but us as players, we were confident going in. We wanted to go out in that game and set the tone early and I think we did that. … A great example of that was the goal that Herculez Gomez scored that should have counted as everyone knows now after the fact. We stepped into the match, confident and secure in our ability. That didn’t change from the previous rounds. We had played them in the 2002 final and had that psychological edge as well. It’s a huge part of it, having the psychological edge in a championship against another team and knowing that you’ve beat them before –they’re going to be thinking about it.”
DUNIVANT: “We had confidence and we had a backline that wasn’t giving up goals. We shut out Colorado in the semifinals and did the same to New England. We had a back line that was on form and it made it difficult for clubs to shut us down. But we don’t win that championship without Herculez Gomez and he came out of nowhere, that was his breakout year and he made a big difference for us.”
VAGENAS: “I had the utmost respect for New England because without winning an MLS Cup, they were one of the most talented teams that MLS has ever put on the field. I also had confidence knowing that a few years before, we went into their home field and won MLS Cup so I looked at it, if we could beat them on their field, we could beat them on a neutral field. “
The date and time of the discussion is up for some debate, some say halftime, others say pregame, but on a hunch, Sampson decided to speak to a few of his veteran players on the idea of bringing Pando Ramirez into the match. Ramirez would enter the game in the 66th minute for Ned Grabavoy, who had taken his slot in the midfield earlier in the season.
SAMPSON: “He had a great week of training in the lead up to the cup and I just sensed that he could do something special and he did. I had brought Cobi, Vagenas and Landon into the locker room prior to the game and I told them that I realize that Pando hasn’t had the greatest success from a finishing standpoint, but I probably intend to play him in this game and he’s going to need your support on the field. And they all agreed to it. I don’t think any one of us thought he’d score the winning goal, but I wanted to give us some fresh legs because the likelihood of going into overtime was great.”
VAGENAS: “Halftime of MLS Cup, he brought Cobi and myself into the locker room when it was 0-0 with New England and he told us that he was considering bringing Pando onto the field. At that point, with everything that had gone on with Pando, Cobi just looked at him. I didn’t say a word. Cobi responded and said, ‘Steve, that is your decision and if you do and it fails then you’re going to take the heat, but if you do it and it works out then it’ll be a great decision. As corny as it sounds it is a true story. … It was weird because you’re in the heat of the battle and the last thing that you’re thinking about is changes that the coach needs to make, we’re just focused on the game.”
JONES: “With that conversation on Pando, that’s obviously a heated discussion because he wasn’t playing that well and hadn’t been doing well. My thoughts on that are that it isn’t a situation that should be determined ahead of time; it needs to be determined by the play of the game and how the match is going. Steve felt that he was a good match for that game and obviously, he had some kind of inkling of what was going on because he did bring exactly what was needed.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com