One thing is clear to me as a fan of Real Salt Lake, as much as RSL fans hate the Colorado Rapids I think more hat the LA Galaxy. It also seems that it isn’t just RSL fans that hate the Galaxy, it seems almost like a universal hatred of LA.
The haters will always hate, there is no question of that but one sometimes has to ask the question, do the haters have it right. When it comes to the LA Galaxy the question most often revolves around how tightly do they have Major League Soccer wrapped around their little finger? Or the perception that they have MLS wrapped around their little finger.
We can go back to the salary cap exemption for Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz, but that wouldn’t be fair as they weren’t the only team to benefit from such exceptions the Kansas City Wizards got the same type of exemption for Eddie Johnson.
A lot of people will point to the signing of David Beckham and the creation of the DP rule as something MLS did to show favor to the LA Galaxy, but again that isn’t exactly the case. More than a year before Beckham was signed by LA, MLS was focused on a different player Ronaldo (the one from Brazil, not Portugal – it was 2005/06 after all) and different team, the move was to be part of the rebranding of the New York Red Bulls. While that deal never finalized, one of the main points of discussion was that MLS should stop granting one off exceptions and create a rule for players outside of the normal salary restriction; it would become the DP rule.
One of the main supporters of the DP rule was RSL’s owner Dave Checketts, who had this to say at a MLS board of governors’ meeting in 2006:
There are already exceptions to the rule with players like Donovan, Palencia, Johnson, there should be a rule that levels the playing field and allows all teams a chance to sign an impact player. The League should not just operate on an exception by exception basis.
It is also interesting to note that Dave was pushing for a quick resolution to the DP issue, as he was considering one to resolve the struggles of Real Salt Lake. So it is clear that while the first player signed under the DP rules that would eventually be passed was David Beckham, it is also clear that this rule wasn’t created just for the Galaxy. It was a rule that even among the owners of MLS had some contention if the goal was to improve the on field play, or if it was more a marketing tool to try to improve ticket sales and TV ratings.
Now did MLS bend for LA with the creation of the 2nd DP rule, which would allow them to resign Landon Donovan, and eventually create a 3rd DP spot, perhaps but other teams have taken full advantage of those rules as well and currently 7 teams have 2 or more DP’s on their roster. Now the cost and quality of those DP’s vary from Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry to Sherjill MacDonald and Oswaldo Minda, but every team has a chance to go above the salary cap maximum to sign or keep special players.
Perhaps the lack of transparency by MLS makes it easier to hate LA, the question of allocation money is an easy one to point to and wonder what might be going on. The slush fund of MLS allows teams to apply fake money to player salaries, transfer fees, and trades. While MLS has published the rule about allocation money on their website, it ends the rules with the following statement:
NOTE: To protect the interests of MLS and its clubs during discussions with prospective players or clubs in other leagues, amounts of allocation money held by each club will not be shared publicly.
I do take some humor in that last part, it was added after the 2011 MLS Cup after MLS leadership said that since salary info, and salary cap info were public knowledge that there was no reason they couldn’t make allocation amounts public (wanna guess who asked that question).
Without transparency we simply never know who how has much or what it has been used for, and perhaps the biggest examples of questions are how much allocation money LA was given for the time Landon Donovan was on loan with Everton, and when David Beckham was on loan with AC Milan. It is interesting that there is no statement about allocation money for loans, only for “transfers for value”. But since both loans came before MLS really made any rules about allocation money public, it wouldn’t surprise me that the rules included loans in the past.
Another area with some gray area’s that might seem to benefit the Galaxy would be the homegrown player rule, I mean they currently have 4 Homegrown players on their roster, and 3 of them are getting regular playing time (Gyosi Zardes, Jose Villarreal, and Jack McBean) and while their players might be making headlines around the league, they are far from the only HGP’s seeing action in MLS. The reality is that many teams are as active with HGP’s or more so than the Galaxy, heck FC Dallas has had 9 HGP’s in recent years. I think the perception is that LA is getting some type of special treatment on HGP’s but the reality is they have a very good academy system, and they are in one of the richest areas of the US for soccer talent.
So I asked online (twitter and facebook) why people hate LA, and it really came down to money and a lot of comparisons to the Lakers:
Some of the comments from twitter:
and facebook offered up these goodies:
LA spends more money on players, and with AEG as their owners there is no doubt they have the deepest pockets in MLS. When Tim Leiweke was in charge of the Galaxy, he was willing to spend money to build the brand and to build a contending team even if it didn’t result in a profit. Before we hate on AEG and their deep pockets we should remember that without Phil Anschutz/AEG’s investment in MLS there would be no MLS, it was AEG along with the Hunt family who really invested money in the early days of MLS when few others would. I don’t begrudge AEG spending money like mad on the Galaxy, by doing so they do help out the league and in turn all teams by establishing the Galaxy as a brand known beyond MLS.
Now in a league where we have a single entity and salary cap to provide parity and a “level” playing field for all the teams it is easy to see why people think the Galaxy are getting away with something. The reality is that they might, there are simply too many things that we are likely never going to know the truth about, as a privately owned entity, MLS doesn’t have to release much data, and while sometimes things leak, full transparency is never going to happen.
Perhaps it is the success that the LA Galaxy have had in recent years that makes it easy to hate them? Since 2009 they have appeared in 3 of 4 MLS Cups, winning two of them. It hasn’t been since the very early days of MLS that we have seen a really dominant team, when DC United won 3 of the first 4 MLS Cups, the reign of San Jose/Houston was split up by the relocation of the team. So maybe the 4 stars above their crest is one reason to hate the Galaxy, or the perception that they bought their recent titles. I am not sure what it is, but I know this, the team has had some great players and while a lot of attention is focused on names like David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane, it has been the guys like Mike Magee, Sean Franklin, and Todd Dunivant who I think have been the real difference makers over the years.
Nothing I have said here is going to make anyone less likely to hate the LA Galaxy, but it was fun taking a look at some of the reasons (right or wrong) why so many people “Hate LA”.
That’s How I See It