A Golden Opportunity Squandered

How the LA Galaxy ruined a perfect opportunity to drastically increase their fan base
by Roy Rosell   |   Monday, July 28, 2014

Galaxy of Angels – column on Los Angeles Galaxy (LA Galaxy) & the LA soccer scene.

A total of 86,432 spectators packed the Rose Bowl on Wednesday night to witness the world’s most valuable sports brand take on the MLS’s most globally recognized franchise.

I witnessed the Pasadena Massacre. I watched as Tommy Meyer wrapped up and personally delivered a golden platter to the feet of Wayne Rooney, allowing him to put in the game’s second goal. I scratched my head as Bruce Arena subbed in the kids in all the wrong positions.

“Second half, we've got two outside midfielders playing outside back, we've got an outside back playing next to a young center back. Against Arizona United, you get away with that. Against Manchester United, you don't get away with that” said Landon Donovan after the game in what appears to be a clear criticism of Bruce Arena’s coaching decisions.

BBC called Tommy Meyer’s defending “abysmal.” I call it disgraceful. And it wasn’t just his mind blowing mistake that gifted Rooney his goal, it’s the fact that players of his underdeveloped skill set are still being considered for starting roles in what is supposed to be one of the league’s top teams. 

By the time Poseidon’s gates were flung open and the destruction became irreversible, most fans not wearing red made their way toward the exits. That is, the 5% of the crowd that were not claiming Manchester United as their team.

What remained was a mass of casual soccer fans whose interest in the game was sparked by the recently concluded World Cup. These are the same casual fans that MLS has been working tirelessly to convert to North American soccer for the past 20 years. On Wednesday night, the LA Galaxy and MLS blew an opportunity to do just that. A competitive match would have given these fans reason to follow the Galaxy; instead, they’ll be seen as a joke.

These casual fans sporting recently purchased Manchester United t-shirts went to this game not knowing what to expect. They had heard that MLS wasn’t as good as other top leagues, but they also heard it was growing quickly and it was worth checking out. Instead of a competitive match that would reinforce the notion that MLS was growing, they were given a Roman blood fest that saw the Galaxy discombobulated and tossed aside like puppies in a den of wolves.

I decided to stick around after the game to interview as many fans as I could about what they had just witnessed. I asked them how long they’ve been soccer fans, if they were Galaxy/MLS fans, and whether this game changed their perception of our league.

The profiles of the 30 people I spoke with were relatively similar: Young adults and families that were either new to the game or had their interests reinforced by an exciting World Cup. Most of the responses they gave me were almost the same as well.

“I had heard MLS was growing and the Galaxy was a good representation of the league. If this is growth, I don’t want to know what they looked like before. I will not be watching MLS anytime soon. When they learn how to play the sport, I may reconsider.”

Ignore the fact that Seattle played a thrilling and clearly dominant 3-3 tie last week with Tottenham, a team that performed better than Manchester United in the last EPL season. Forget that a poor performing Kansas City beat a full strength Manchester United 2-1 just a few years ago and similar results have happened several times since. Put aside the fact that MLS teams have historically done very well against international opposition, beating the world’s best on multiple occasions.

This game happened at a time that interest in the sport is at an all-time high. Most of these fans weren’t around to see those games and thus see this as the norm. 

This game only managed to reinforce the globally held mentality that MLS is a second rate league. Yes, it was just a friendly and LA used mostly reserve players for a majority of the match, but in a league that is expanding quicker than its fan base, MLS cannot afford to humiliate themselves in front of potential consumers.

These friendlies are a sales pitch. On Wednesday night, the Galaxy left the script at the Stub Hub Center. 

Roy ROSELL

Nationality:
USA
College:
Cal Poly Pomona
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Absolute fanatic, especially passionate about MLS and it's growth. LA Galaxy columnist with no filter and a knack for the controversial. Travelled the world watching soccer matches, but there's no place like home.
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