Greg Vanney served the Galaxy more than admirably in two stints, the first as a young player evolving into a national team-caliber defender and the second in the twilight of his on-field career.
Now he's on staff at Chivas USA, as former Galaxy teammate Robin Fraser's top assistant, and so Saturday's SuperClasico against his former club might stir some emotions, right?
“I think from my side, it's another one that we got to win,” Vanney said. “The Galaxy holds a special place in my heart for my playing career, but now I'm on the other side of things -- I'm a coach, and I'm here, and ouir objective is to try to improve this team so that we're somewhere in the end trying to compete when the playoffs come around and the championship comes around.
“The Galaxy is another opponent that stands in our way and a team that, quite frankly, we get to measure ourselves against now. I can't say it's too incredibly, overly special, though it would be nice to win to win the game, obviously.”
Vanney, 36, was a rookie left back out of UCLA on the inaugural Galaxy team, on which he was taken under the wings of the backline veterans -- most of all Fraser, with whom he found a kinship based on approach and philosophy that led to a reunion with the Goats.
Vanney, who transitioned into a center back, played for the Galaxy from 1996 through 2001 -- missing out on the club's first MLS Cup title the following season -- and wrapped up his career in L.A. in 2008 after stints in France (with Bastia), FC Dallas, Colorado and D.C. United. He would have been on the 2002 World Cup team but tore knee ligaments in the buildup to the tournament.
He has warm memories of his first stint with the Galaxy, which played in the Rose Bowl and was more like a family, with former general manager Danny Villanueva the friendly patriarch.
“A lot of [the memories] have to do with friendships,” Vanney said. “Robin and I met with the Galaxy, and here we are now. With Cobi [Jones] and [first captain Dan] Calichman and all the guys, especially in those first six years, that was just a really, really tight-knit group. We went through a lot of battles together, competed together, were successful together, and that always brings people a little bit closer. And those are, for sure, the fondest memories of the Galaxy.”
When he “came back the second time, the year was a little bit of a circus.” That was the season Ruud Gullit was in charge, and there was tension in the locker room and little organization on the field until the Dutchman stepped down/was forced out in August and Bruce Arena took command.
“There were a lot of things going on, and it didn't feel like home,” Vanney said. “It didn't feel like the time before.”
The atmosphere surrounding the club was altered when AEG purchased the club following the 1998 season, bringing in a corporate culture somewhat at odds with the original entity. That corporate flavor has become more entrenched over time.
“It's definitely changed, and it's turned into a business, but it's good,” Vanney said. “I mean, it's good for the game. It's good to have those big-name players, and it's good to have Mr. [Philip] Anschutz [club owner through AEG], who's willing to do what he's done for the sport in this country.
“You have to have people like that, and they're special to this league and longevity of this league, and so I give them all the credit for sticking with the sport. … We need teams like that. What would baseball be like without the Yankees? But you got to have teams like us, too, who are just truing to build and compete and do it, and that's kind of what makes these matchups interesting.
“You have [with Chivas] a team that's playing well that doesn't have a bunch of stars, just a bunch of people who, at the end of the day, people are scratching their heads saying, 'Who are these guys?' “