Pre-season action has been going on in Major League Soccer for the past few weeks and hardcore fans have had the chance to catch their favorite teams play against teams they normally wouldn’t. LA Galaxy fans rolled up to the Home Depot Center in Carson this past Tuesday to watch Robbie Keane and the gang play against Liga MX’s Xolos de Tijuana.
I invited my friend Elvis Mendoza (a.k.a. DJ Eazy Uno of Bombilla) to the game because he’s a big fan of football who stopped following MLS years ago. In fact, he was very surprised to find out the league still existed. I was able to convince him to come out to the game and give MLS another try.
We arrived almost two hours early to the game in order to hang out outside the stadium with the hardcore fans. A number of supporters were there despite the freezing cold (by southern Cali standards, so, like 55 degrees F) eating and drinking before the game.
“It’s been a minute since I’ve followed the MLS league,” Mendoza admits while sipping on an ice cold brew that, miraculously, hadn’t frozen his fingers off. “I’m curious to see how it’s progressed…if it has. Last time I was into MLS, like a full season with the Galaxy, was around Carlos Ruiz, around his era. That was around ‘03. That’s the last time I was really following the Galaxy hardcore.”
Mendoza began following MLS after watching a few games on local station KCAL-9. “It gave me something to watch, something to get into,” he says. “I was still young enough to be around when the MLS was developing so, I didn’t read about it somewhere else, I was living it. That’s what got me into MLS and the Galaxy especially.”
Unfortunately for Mendoza and other fans, KCAL eventually stopped airing Galaxy games and that signaled the beginning of the end for him, among other things. “I think I was too optimistic towards MLS soccer,” he says. “I was maybe naïve like, ‘yo, in a couple of years this is going to be like the [English] Premier League.’ I thought we were going to progress as a league faster than where we are right now. Not to downplay it or anything but, in my eyes, I thought the premiere players were going to come to the MLS and start playing over here.”
Mendoza may never see guys like Lionel Messi play in the MLS but he did get a chance to watch some of the league’s high-profile players in action. Stars Robbie Keane, Mike Magee, Remezcla favorite Omar Gonzalez, and others made their way onto the field for kickoff against Xolo’s younger reserve squad (the A-listers were in Colombia for the team’s more important Copa Libertadores match against Millionarios).
The Galaxy team mixed it up throughout the game as the veterans handled the first half and were replaced by its younger members in the second half. Fans of both sat in pouring rain to cheer and jeer both sides. In the end, the hometown team triumphed over its visitors 6 – 2, an outcome Mendoza was happy with despite rooting for the visitors.
“It rejuvenated my respect for the MLS,” he says after the game. “The whole energy in there…I would come back for another game, maybe follow MLS this year.”
What really sold him was the fan experience. He was lucky enough to sit near the LA Riot Squad support group who, along with the Galaxians and Angel City Brigade, cheered the team on for all 90 minutes. He also met fans sitting in the front row who have been rooting for the Galaxy since day one over 20 years ago.
“Shit has progressed since ‘96,” he continues. “People come out here on a rainy LA night and say ‘fuck it, we’re gonna sit here for an exhibition game.’ I was definitely impressed by the amount of dedicated fans right now.”
Mendoza plans on coming back for opening day. And thus, a former love affair was re-kindled!