Los Angeles Soccer: Cobi Jones
Big crowd? Check. Rooting for El Tri? Of course. Early Mexican domination? Just like in series history. Lights-out goalkeeping? Shades of Tony Meola, Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel. An American triumph on home ground? Bingo.
“Same old same old, right?” Eric Wynalda chirped afterward. “2-0. That's the way these games finish.”
This one did, lending a red, white and blueish glow to a surprisingly delightful evening at the Clasico de Leyendas match between great U.S. and Mexican players of yesteryear, primarily the 1990s and early 2000s, when the rise of American soccer created the region's greatest national teams rivalry.
These games do finish 2-0, as most everyone on the field noted.
“Reminds me of the  World Cup,” said Cobi Jones, who like former Westlake High School teammate Wynalda played in three World Cups for the U.S. “Same score, always fabulous.”
2002 is the apex of the rivalry, the only World Cup encounter in 59 meetings, but it was 2-0 U.S. in the home qualifier for the last three World Cups, in the 1991 Gold Cup -- the first of 13 U.S. victories in the past 21 years -- and in 2000 and 2007 friendlies.
The goals came from Roy Lassiter (Major League Soccer's first scoring champion) and Brian McBride (a legend in the U.S. and parts of England), and both arrived in the second half, after Galaxy goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer (capped just once, in 1992) had made the best of eight fantastic saves -- on Francisco Palencia, Ramon Morales, Jared Borgetti twice, Alberto Garcia Aspe, Ramon Ramirez and Luis Hernandez twice -- that kept the Yanks in what had been a very one-sided game.
But that spark of what was -- the intensity of the battles, the hatred of the foe -- figures to color what occurs on the Home Depot Center turf, even if the duels aren't so bloody nor the pace so quick.
More than a dozen legends from the U.S. and Mexican national teams, most of them veterans of the 1990s showdowns that created the rivalry between CONCACAF's twin powers, along with other pros will meet up again in a 70-minute match to benefit Hispanic college scholarships.
Some of the biggest names from the era -- Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, Alexi Lalas and Paul Caligiuri for the U.S.; Claudio Suarez, Ramon Ramirez, Jorge Campos and Luis Hernandez for Mexico -- are slated to play in the 6 p.m. game, which sounds as much celebration as competition.
“I remember my first game against Mexico was in Azteca Stadium [in the 1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup final], and we lost, 4-0,” said Thomas Dooley, the German-born midfielder who played in the 1994 World Cup and captained the U.S. at the 1998 World Cup. “My first experience that I have was with [defender and current Guadalajara head coach Ignacio] Ambriz, and we almost had a fight on the field, kicking each other, boxing each other.
“That's what the rivalry is all about, going after each other. And after the game, we looked for each other and we traded jerseys and we actually became friends whenever we saw each other. I think that's a big part of our games against Mexico. It's a competition on the field, and after the game, it doesn't matter if Mexico wins or the U.S. wins, we'll always be friends.”
Ever wish you could travel back in time to see some of the region's greats of yesteryear? American stars such as Cobi Jones and Eric Wynalda, Alexi Lalas and Paul Caligiuri, or Mexicans Jorge Campos, Jared Borgetti, Luis Hernandez or Alberto Garcia Aspe?
Circle a week from Sunday on the calendar. The Legends Classic, featuring some of the biggest names in the North American game, is scheduled for April 15 at Home Depot Center, with a 6 p.m. kickoff. Tickets start at $15, and the game will be officially announced any moment.
The U.S. roster, according to the PRIMETIME Sports, the event's organizer, features National Soccer Hall of Famers Jones, Wynalda, Lalas, Caligiuri and Thomas Dooley, all key figures on the U.S. World Cup sides of the 1990s (and 2002, with Jones).
Also on the list: John O'Brien, who played in two World Cups; Cle Kooiman, a defender on the 1994 World Cup team; former Galaxy stars Clint Mathis, Chris Klein and Jovan Kirovski, plus longtime pros Roy Lassiter, Ted Eck and Christopher Sullivan.
Hall of Famer-to-be Brian McBride and Galaxy goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer are on the list but unconfirmed, and Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo will guide the American “legends.”
The Mexican roster will feature Campos and Hernandez, both former Galaxy standouts, plus Garcia Aspe and Roberto Luis Alves, better known as Zague, the organizers confirmed. Hoy Los Angeles reports that Borgetti and former Chivas USA star Francisco Palencia also will play.
UPDATE (April 6, 5:40 p.m.): The game has been announced, and with it Mexico's roster, which includes former Chivas USA stars Claudio Suarez, Ramon Ramirez and Mariano Trujillo. Organizers report that also suiting up for El Tri, in addition to the players listed above, are Martin Zuniga, Carlos Reynoso, German Villa, Ramon Morales, David Oteo, Joel Sanchez, Missael Espinoza, Marco Antonio “Chima” Ruiz and Jesus Olalde.
Jones, a National Soccer Hall of Fame midfielder who spent 12 seasons as a player and two-plus years as an assistant coach with the team, will partner Mark Rogondino on the club's local English-language broadcasts.
Jones, 41, a former UCLA star from Westlake Village, holds the U.S. record for international caps, making 164 international appearances and playing in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He played in 306 regular-season and 45 MLS playoff games for L.A., scoring 76 goals with 104 assists in league action and playing prominent roles in five Galaxy championships, including the 2002 and 2005 MLS Cup triumphs. He also played in 14 CONCACAF games, scoring twice.
KDOC will televise 18 Galaxy games before Time Warner Cable's new regional sports network launches in October.
Rogondino is in his seventh year on Galaxy broadcasts and his first in a play-by-play role.
Adrian Garcia Marquez, who has called games in Spanish for the Dodgers, Angels and USC football, will do play-by-play on KWHY/Channel 22's coverage of the Galaxy, with former KMEX/Channel 34 sports anchor Francisco Pinto providing analysis.
The best thing about the U.S. national team's 3-2 victory Tuesday in Slovenia -- and there were a lot of good things -- might have been the opening whistle. It gave U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra his 100th cap, a threshold only 11 American men had previously reached.
The central defender from Alta Loma (Alta Loma HS/UCLA) went the full 90 as the Yanks improved to 2-4-1 under Jurgen Klinsmann with their first victory in Europe in 3˝ years.
Clint Dempsey forced a turnover that former Galaxy striker Edson Buddle finished from distance in the ninth minute, and Dempsey's header from Michael Bradley's corner kick restored the U.S. advantage in the 41st minute. Jozy Altidore converted a penalty kick two minutes later after Fabian Johnson was dragged down.
Tim Matavz's second goal of the night, in the 61st minute, pulled Slovenia closer.
Other L.A. area players seeing action were Bradley (Manhattan Beach), who started in midfield, and Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) and Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS), who came off the bench.
Bocanegra debuted for the U.S. in December 2001 and has served as the team's captain since June 2007.
“It was a special night,” Klinsmann told reporters afterward. “The team was pumped up all day, and they wanted to do well for him.”
Five of the top seven on the all-time U.S. caps list are from Southern California -- Cobi Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), Landon Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), Marcelo Balboa (Cerritos/Cerritos HS), Paul Caligiuri (Diamond Bar/Walnut HS) and Eric Wynalda (Westlake Village/Westlake HS) -- and Bocanegra is joined at 100 caps by Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS and UCLA).
U.S. Soccer has put together a “infographic” -- a poster, more or less -- commemorating Bocanegra's 100 maches, and a PDF is available for download.
U.S. CENTURY CLUB
(100 international appearances)
1. Cobi Jones 164
2. Landon Donovan 138
3. Jeff Agoos 134
4. Marcelo Balboa 128
5. Claudio Reyna 112
6. Paul Caligiuri 110
7. Eric Wynalda 106
8. Kasey Keller 102
9. Earnie Stewart 101
10. Carlos Bocanegra 100
Tony Meola 100
Joe-Max Moore 100
HARRISON, N.J. -- It was unnecessary, it was unfortunate, it was ugly.
But, Landon Donovan noted following the Galaxy's victory over the New York Red Bulls in a Major League Soccer playoff opener Sunday afternoon, it was hardly unexpected.
A scuffle broke out at the finish of L.A.'s 1-0 triumph, and you could have predicted this: Rafa Marquez was the center.
The Mexican midfielder, a supremely talented player with a propensity for on-field nastiness, greeted the final whistle by hurling the ball, sharply, at Donovan. Adam Cristman confronted Marquez, who tried to head-butt the Galaxy forward, Red Bulls defender Stephen Keel leaped in, and L.A. midfielder Juninho retaliated.
When it was done, referee Alex Prus issued postgame red cards to Marquez and Juninho, and the league could decide on further sanctions -- against Keel, most likely -- before Thursday's second leg in the home-and-home series at Home Depot Center.
“It's a disgrace,” said Donovan, who was standing at midfield, about 10 yards from Marquez, when Prus blew his whistle with a Josh Saunders goal kick in the air. Marquez caught the ball, and immediately flung it at the Galaxy captain, nailing him in the lower leg.
“We're here to play soccer,” Donovan said, “and when things like that are instigated by players on their team, it's real disgraceful.”
Marquez has a mostly one-sided history with Donovan -- and with the U.S. national team. His brutal foul against Cobi Jones in the 2002 World Cup round of 16 remains a sore point with Yanks, and when there's opportunity to deliver a cheap shot, especially away from the ball, he too often steps up.
Asked about this, Donovan was succinct: “I don't think anybody's surprised by what happened.”
What Marquez thinks about this is anybody's guess. He hasn't spoken to the media since his public comments last month criticizing Red Bulls defender were punished by a team suspension.
Keel, who was knocked to the ground by Juninho, blamed it all on playoff intensity.
“Tensions were high. You can see it's a playoff game ...,” he said. “At the end, there is a little scuffle, nothing major. I think someone comes in to break it up and everything. I just got knocked in the mouth a little bit. Nothing major. For me, it's not a big deal.”
Cobi Jones is one of the most beloved players, and one of the finest, ever to pull on a U.S. jersey, but as he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in a ceremony before Saturday's U.S.-Spain friendly in Foxborough, Mass., he recalled one fan who wasn't much of a fan.
It was parcel of the great Galaxy-D.C. United rivalry that made such an impact in Major League Soccer's early seasons -- and was revisited in a tedious 0-0 draw Friday night at Home Depot Center. Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), among the most prominent figures within SoCal's soccer royalty, spent nearly his entire career with the Galaxy, and whenever the team would visit RFK Stadium, one guy always would give him an earful.
"There was this one guy that would always give me some stick before the game," Jones said, according to Steve Goff's outstanding account of the occasion for The Washington Post. "One game I was warming up, Eddie [Pope] happened to be near me and asked me why that guy was like that. I said, ’I don’t know. He’s always saying, "Cobi, you are terrible! You are the worst! You should just quit!" ’
"A week later, we had a national team game in D.C., and I saw the guy. Eddie is jogging with me, and I thought he’s going to be supporting me now. So Eddie said, ‘Let’s get closer to him.’ The guy is there, we’re jogging up, he said, ‘Cobi!’ I looked up. He said, ‘You’re terrible! You’re the worst player!’ I could never get a break there.”
Jones, a speedy winger who could create or score goals, played a record 164 times in 12 years for the U.S. national team and competed in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He was a slam-dunk first-vote Hall of Famer, listed on 87.13 percent of the ballots.
Also inducted were Pope, perhaps the finest defender in U.S. history; Dutch-American midfielder Earnie Stewart, one of the greatest of the U.S.'s foreign-born and -bred players; Bruce Murray, the national team's all-time scoring leader before Eric Wynalda and Landon Donovan; and Bob Gansler, who guided the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup.
Cobi Jones, the speedy winger who played more international games than any other American, was a no-brainer. So was Eddie Pope. And Dutch-born Earnie Stewart certainly was deserving after missing the cut twice before.
The three former U.S. national team stars head to National Soccer Hall of Fame's Class of 2011, U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday.
Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), who spent most of his professional career with the L.A. Galaxy, and Pope were first-ballot selections. Former U.S. star Bruce Murray was voted in by the Hall's veterans committee and former U.S. head coach Bob Gansler made it through the builders category.
Jones, 40, played 164 times for the U.S. and played in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He was with the Galaxy from 1996, Major League Soccer's inaugural season, until his retirement in 2007 and spent three seasons as a Galaxy assistant coach before joining the New York Cosmos in January as associate director of soccer.
Pope, 37, was the finest defender of his generation -- and possibly the finest backliner ever to feature for the U.S. He made 82 international appearances, played in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups and spent 12 seasons in MLS, with D.C. United, New York and Real Salt Lake.
Stewart, 42, was the son of an American serviceman who married a Dutchwoman and settled in Holland. The attacking midfielder joined the U.S. national team in 1990 and made 101 appearances over 15 years, playing in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He played two seasons (2003-04) with D.C. United and otherwise spent his career in the Netherlands, with VVV Venlo, Willem II and NAC Breda.
Stewart and German-born Thomas Dooley, a 2010 Hall of Fame inductee and also the son of an American servicemen, were the most prominent foreign-born players brought into the national team program as the sport grew rapidly in this country leading up to and following the 1994 World Cup.
Jones was listed on 87 percent of ballots, Pope on 74 percent and Stewart on 71 percent. Full disclosure: I have a vote, and Jones, Pope and Stewart were the first three names on my ballot.
Murray, 45, was the top U.S. scorer with 21 goals before Eric Wynalda and later Landon Donovan set new standards. He played in the 1990 World Cup and played with minor-league U.S. teams and in Switzerland, England and Scotland before retiring in 1995.
The Hungary-born Gansler, 69, was the U.S. coach in Italy in 1990, the Americans' first World Cup in 40 years. He also was head coach of the Kansas City Wizards from 1999 to 2006.
Among those passed over were Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser and assistant coach Carlos Llamosa, former U.S. national team stars Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS) and John O'Brien (Playa del Rey/Brentwood School), and Galaxy legend Mauricio Cienfuegos.
Induction will take place this summer; details on the ceremony have not been finalized.
Jones, who played 164 times for the U.S. and spent 15 seasons with the Galaxy, as player and coach, before taking a position last month with the New York Cosmos, makes his initial appearance this year on the ballot, which arrived in voters' e-mail boxes Thursday.
He's a slam dunk. So is former U.S. national team backline anchor Eddie Pope, also among six newcomers on the eligibility list.
Others making their first appearances are Chivas USA assistant coach Carlos Llamosa, former Galaxy midfielder Chris Armas, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis and former U.S. women's standout Danielle Slaton. Armas, among the four, is the best bet for first-year induction, although it is more likely one or more of 18 holdover join Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA) and Pope in the class.
Our first choice among the holdovers: Dutch-born former U.S. star Earnie Stewart.
Others holdovers include Chivas USA head coach (and former Galaxy defender) Robin Fraser, former Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos, former UCLA standout (and Seattle Sounders technical director) Chris Henderson, and two local players: former U.S. national team stars Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS and UCLA) and John O'Brien (Playa del Rey/Brentwood School).
Others on the player ballot: Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes, Philadelphia Union head coach Peter Nowak, New England Revolution VP of player personnel Mike Burns, former U.S. national-teamer Steve Trittschuh, former MLS stars Raul Diaz Arce, Marco Etcheverry, Roy Lassiter and Carlos Valderrama, indoor legend Victor Nogueira, and former U.S. women's national-teamers Shannon MacMillan, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts and Tisha Venturini-Hoch.
The 10 names before the veterans committee include San Jose Earthquakes GM John Doyle and the late, great George Best, who spent a little time with the old L.A. Aztecs; Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid (Torrance/Bishop Montgomery HS and UCLA) is one of seven men up for consideration by the builders committee.
Votes are due in by March 11 and results will be announced in early spring.
Onalfo, who made 13 league appearances for the Galaxy in 1996, played for Arena at the University of Virginia and in 1998 at D.C. United and was on his U.S. national team staff from 2002 to 2006.
"We have a good, young coach with experience in Major League Soccer," Arena said of Onalfo. "So I think he'll be a real good addition for us."
Onalfo went 27-29-22 as head coach in Kansas City in 2007, 2008 and the first four months of 2009, taking the Wizards to the MLS playoffs in his second year in charge. He was hired as D.C.'s head coach last December and dismissed in August with a 3-12-3 record.
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan was head coach of the Chicago Fire from 2002 until midway through the 2007 season. He was MLS's Coach of the Year in 2003, when he guided the Fire to the MLS Cup final and the U.S. Open Cup title.
Cobi Jones is old enough to remember the old Cosmos -- the team of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and other big-name stars -- and the North American Soccer League, believe it or not.
“I'm 40 years old,” he says. “Why does everybody think I'm still in my 20s?”
It could be the youthful energy with which he plied his trade for so many years, encompassing three World Cups, a U.S.-record 164 international matches and the first dozen seasons in Major League Soccer as a Galaxy star and then legend, but his standing with L.A.'s team -- dating to its 1996 debut -- has officially ended.
Jones, whose name was synonymous with the Galaxy, was unveiled Monday as the Cosmos' associate director of soccer and club ambassador. After 12 years patrolling the flanks and three more as assistant coach, first to Ruud Gullit and then to Bruce Arena (with one game as interim head coach in between), his new focus is getting a second New York club ready for MLS.
The new Cosmos are angling to become the league's 20th team, and a natural rival to the New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls, and they've impressed Jones since first contacting him last year with the “fervor with which they're doing everything.”
“I can't go into too many of the details,” he told ESPN Los Angeles on Monday, “but it's something that will pleasantly surprise a lot of people. The ultimate goal is to get into MLS, but the way they're going about it, I think, is the right way.
“They want to do amazing things, not just in the New York area, but for MLS and soccer in the United States and internationally.”
Add to Edson Buddle's move to Germany two departures from the local clubs Monday.Cobi Jones, perhaps the Galaxy's most enduring legend, has left Bruce Arena's coaching staff to become associate director of soccer and an ambassador for the new New York Cosmos, who are bidding to become the 20th Major League Soccer franchise.
Osael Romero, the Salvadoran midfielder who arrived on loan from Vista Hermosa with decent fanfare when he joined Chivas USA last season, was released after a dismal 2010 campaign.
Jones, of course, is soccer royalty in these parts. The Westlake Village product (Westlake HS/UCLA) has been with the Galaxy since their inception, playing from 1996 through 2007 -- he owns 10 club records, including games (306), starts (281) and assists (91), and is No. 2 to Landon Donovan in goals (70) -- and serving as assistant coach the past three seasons.
Jones, who was a high school teammate of Eric Wynalda's, played in three World Cups (1994, 1998 and 2002) and holds the U.S. record for international appearances (164), the No. 7 total in history.
The Cosmos, revived last year by former Tottenham vice chairman Paul Kemsley, already has a Los Angeles presence, partnering with Pasadena-based youth club Los Angeles Futbol Club to form Cosmos Academy (West). LAFC was rebranded as LAFC Cosmos.
Romero, 24, an attacking midfielder for El Salvador's national team, was too slight, too slow and never adapted to Major League Soccer. He made just 13 appearances for Chivas USA, nine in league play, and scored one goals. The Goats declined their option on the loan agreement, and Romero returned to Vista Hermosa.
Our countdown of 2010's top 10 soccer stories and newsmakers -- from a Southern California slant -- continues.
- Newsmakers/No. 6: Kevin Hartman and Amy Rodriguez
One was a veteran goalkeeper dumped by the club he'd served admirably for three seasons. The other was a promising young striker who hadn't lived up to the acclaim and expectations.
Both delivered breakthrough campaigns in 2010.
Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) had the finest year of his career -- the finest year any Major League Soccer netminder has posted -- to lead FC Dallas to its first MLS Cup title game.
Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC) asserted herself as one of the best forwards in the women's game, leading the expansion Philadelphia Independence to Women's Professional Soccer's championship game and making a real impact for the U.S. women's national team.
Their link goes far deeper than that.
Sanchez was a midfield creator and Gonzalez a backline anchor for Cal State L.A.'s men's team in the early 1990s -- a breeding ground, it turns out, for outstanding coaches.
They're among several Golden Eagles from the era, all prodigies of former Mexican national-teamer Leo Cuellar, who have gone on to guide title-winning teams, and the jobs they've done this year -- no matter what occurs this weekend -- have been among their best.
Sanchez returned just five players from last year's champions for what was supposed to be a "restructuring" campaign. His Mounties are 17-1-4, ranked second in the state and fourth in the nation, and one victory -- Friday morning at 10 against Northern California's West Valley College (16-4-2) -- from an opportunity to defend their title on Sunday.
Gonzalez's Falcons (22-1-2) have more experience but are somewhat of an underdog, forced to knock off the nation's Nos. 1 and 3 teams to reach the final four. They're no favorite at Canyons, either: NorCal powerhouse Santa Rosa (17-0-5), the state's lone unbeaten side, is their foe in Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal.
The other games: Canyons (16-5-2) vs. Fresno City (15-4-3) in a men's semi at 1 p.m., and San Bernardino Valley (17-1-3) vs. Fresno City (19-2-2) in a women's clash at 7 p.m.
Ah, the perks of playing in Lala Land.
Galaxy icon Cobi Jones, an assistant coach on Bruce Arena's staff, and seven players -- none of them named Landon Donovan or David Beckham -- will appear on Tuesday night's episode of “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” on The Food Network.
Major League Soccer MVP Edson Buddle and league Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts lead the L.A. contingent. Also on the show are defenders Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez, midfielder Dema Kovalenko and forwards Tristan Bowen and Mike Magee.
The chefs will be preparing an “international” menu for the Galaxy group, and there are certainly some interesting angles that can be taken. Ricketts is Jamaican, as is Buddle's father. Gonzalez is a Texan with Mexican ancestry. Kovalenko is from Ukraine. Bowen and Franklin are Southern Californians, and Magee comes from Chicago, one of the great food cities in America.
The show airs at 9 p.m. PT