I am flipping through the pages of the official game program for the 2011 edition of the MLS Cup Final, the championship game that determines the winner of the premier professional association football league in the United States and Canada known as Major League Soccer. And as I leaf through the glossy print, the faces and the ads, I am reminded of the days leading up to the big event, and how I was a part of it.
A year ago, I was a writer for Bleacher Report and I was the site’s beat writer for the Los Angeles Galaxy. I remember the day that the Philip F. Anschutz trophy made its way down the Santa Monica Pier, accompanied by the great Alexi Lalas and his most ginger hairdo. It was a slightly warm day and a sunny day at that, but it was also one filled with cameras and interested onlookers. Speeches were made, and I even posed with the trophy to remember that moment on the pier.
Then I remembered the days I spent in the Westin Bonaventure, chronicling the breakthrough season for the Los Angeles Galaxy that was 2011. A Supporters’ Shield was won by this club, and a victory in the final would secure a historic double, and it would go on to be their first since 2005 (US Open Cup, MLS Cup). I remember the day that people like Oscar De La Hoya and Heath Pearce kicked soccer balls from high above Staples Center into a ridiculously oversized goalmouth on Chick Hearn Place between L.A. Live and Staples. (Neil Everett of ESPN SportsCenter fame was the only one to actually score a goal, for the record.)
I remembered MLS Cup Media Day at the Westin, and how Mike Magee was snubbed by reporters who were fielding questions to people like Landon Donovan, Brian Ching and Geoff Cameron. I overheard in another room a broadcast of MLS Extra Time Radio, and the voices of Nick Firchau, Jason Saghini, Simon Borg and Greg Lalas, the latter two who took part at the MLS Media Cup. I remembered taking photos of different banners featuring the numerous supporters groups (minus Montreal) that help make our league special.
I remembered the MLS Cup Media Happy Hour at the Standard, and how I had some difficulty navigating from the patio to another part of the patio filled with different appetizers and beverages and a large pool that no one dared to swim in, for obvious reasons. I remembered losing myself in those thick and deep water beds and how I rubbed shoulders with the greatest soccer personalities in the USA and elsewhere, local, national and international.
I remember the Media Cup, and how the media members played the game. It wasn’t as flashy as the two teams who would engage on Nov. 20 of last year but the passion was there. Then I remembered witnessing the practices on the Home Depot Center pitch, wishing Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane well and a strong effort, along with Dwayne De Rosario being awarded MVP that season in the Stadium Club.
And I remembered the Supporters’ Summit, held in the rain, and yet, the Commissioner, Mr. Don Garber himself, was dry. I had to crouch just to get some space and take photos, and then I listened to the new rules, the new laws of the land that take effect starting this season and whose effect lingers on.
Then I remember the game itself. Very cold, very wet, and not the most impressive of cup finals given the conditions. The place I was stationed at did not have a strong wireless connection, and so I had to blog inside the press box while a local brass emsemble did their rendition of the MLS Processional Anthem made famous by Audiobrain.
But as I heard a loud roar from outside, I knew that something positive had happened to the Galaxy, and everyone inside the press box was viewing the replay. Tape delay…what a wonderful thing that is. And there it. David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan. A sequence in the 71st minute that blew the roof off Victoria Street.
After I concluded the Live Blog, I hurried down to the pitch but I had to be careful because I picked the wrong shoes for this occasion, and a few slips and falls would be nothing short of embarrassing. All in all, I kept in mind that it was only LA Galaxy soccer that won the day for Los Angeles, and nothing else. I watched the celebrations, the reunion between celebrated adults and their children, the namesake of the trophy handing his trophy to one of his clubs…and David Beckham witnessing his career come full circle. The man himself, the No. 23 of the Galaxy, had won league titles in three different countries, and this was just another feather in his deservedly huge cap.
As the confetti rained down and I passed by the happy dressing room of the home team and the hopeless air surrounding their visiting counterparts, I collected my thoughts and prepared for the long ride back home. Fast forward to late November. It’s one year since the Los Angeles Galaxy earned their third star. They are less than two weeks away from a chance at earning their fourth.
And it will be the same venue, the same teams, the same hosting city, perhaps even the same buildup leading up to the seventeenth edition of the biggest night in American soccer. Or, rather, day for that matter. After all, this year the MLS Cup Final is held in the afternoon, perhaps to placate some East Coast viewers of that nature or other ESPN programming rabble robble.
And I won’t be at the events this time around, but I might be next year if certain circumstances come to pass, and a lot of them at that. But the more I remember how I played my part at last year’s MLS Cup Final, the more excited I get for this year’s MLS Cup Final, as will others who follow the Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo, and other teams in Major League Soccer. In conclusion, it boils down to that special something about the postseason that brings out the best in anyone and everyone. It’s what makes the United States of America one of the greatest sporting nations on earth.