The Galaxy is making a big deal about its May 23 friendly against Argentina's Boca Juniors at the Home Depot Center, and well is should. The Buenos Aires club is among the giants of the global game, with 23 domestic titles and 18 "official" international championships, although only half of those -- six in the Copa Libertadores, South America's club championship, and three in the InterContinental Cup, the precursor to FIFA's Club World Cup -- really mean anything.
A lot of big names have worn the blue and gold, none bigger than Diego Maradona, who played for Boca early in his career, just before going to Europe, and at the finish, in the mid-1990s.
Los Xeneizes (the most prominent of the club's nicknames; our favorite: Los Bosteros, "the Manure Handlers") have one legitimate superstar, central midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, whom Maradona has controversially left out of Argentina's national team the past year or so. (His presence could have been pivotal for the Argentines at the World Cup in South Africa; Maradona's presence, as manager, just might mean doom.)
What the Galaxy doesn't want you to know is that Boca Juniors is not very good. Not right now, at least.
Go back a few years, and the story's something else. Boca has won seven league titles since 1998, and four of its Copa Libertadores triumphs are since 2000, the most recent in 2007. It prevailed in perhaps the most thrilling championship race in Argentine history, beating Tigre and San Lorenzo in a three-way playoff after the clubs tied for first in the 2008 Apertura (fall) championship.
Since then, nothing. Boca finished 14th (with a 6-9-4 record) in the 2009 Clausura and 11th (7-6-6) in the 2009 Apertura, and right now it's 15th (of 20) in the 2010 Clausura, with a 4-7-5 record and three games to play. (At least it's ahead of hated rival River Plate, another big-name Buenos Aires club, which sits 17th with a 4-8-4 mark.)
Boca Juniors' name and jersey are cherished in the soccer world. What's filling those jerseys and wearing that name is nothing special these days.
Orange County native Scott French has been writing about soccer for more than 30 years for dozens of publications and Web sites. He was senior editor at Soccer America and was managing editor of MajorSoccerLeague Magazine from April 2007 until last summer. He has covered three World Cups for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and Los Angeles Daily News, two Women's World Cups for Soccer America, the Olympic Games, European Championship, U-20 World Cup, eight MLS Cups and all four professional women's championship games.