Before 1996 there was not much soccer to follow in Los Angeles let alone the United States, and in 1994 during the World Cup at the age of four, I fell in love with the sport. The crowds, the cheers, and the celebrations completely captivated me, and I was in need for more! That is why the announcement of a new league in the United States came like a diamond ring to a finger. I was going to be able to keep following the sport I fell in love with, and support a local team, the Los Angeles Galaxy!
One of the key factors that led me to following the club was that both my parents are Salvadoran immigrants. My parents migrated to this country in 1981 due to a Civil War that was ravaging their home country of El Salvador, and during the early 1990’s there were but a few ways of one to feel attached to their home country, however soccer quickly became one of them. In the early 1990’s the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would host international matches between Salvadoran teams. My family had close ties to one team that would come play since the team’s personal trainer was my uncle, and that was Luis Angel Firpo. I quickly became a fan of the team and of one player in particular. Despite being the shortest on the field he demonstrated grit, determination, and a magical touch which made him stand out above all other 22 players. His name, Mauricio Cienfuegos. When we found out our home team had signed him to represent the Galaxy my family was ecstatic that someone from their home country was going to be representing them in what had become their new home, Los Angeles.
Due to Cienfuegos’ skill on the ball and because of the number of Salvadoran patriots that came out to support, Galaxy away games in cities with highly populated Salvadoran Communities like Washington D.C., Dallas, and San Jose quickly became another home game for the Galaxy. Since 1996 the Salvadoran community in the United States has contributed to the growth of Major League Soccer. MLS legends like Ronald Cerritos of the San Jose Clash (Earthquakes) and Raul Ignacio Diaz Arce for DC United were placed, like Cienfuegos, in cities with a highly populated community of Salvadorans, and that was to drive those fans to the stadium. It worked! The clashes these three originals had in the early days of Major League Soccer have shaped not only the dynamic of Galaxy fan culture, but league culture overall.
There was nothing quite like that walk through those Rose Bowl General Admission tunnels (GA). What looked like a construction zone beneath the GA bleachers, was the gateway leading you to the field and to the sights, sounds, and smell of a Galaxy game. As you made your way through the tunnel and on to your seats, the UCLA football markings on the field stood out in bright colors. To my right in a tight corner the ever present and always chanting Galaxians, and all around my surrounding what seemed like a family gathering in the GA bleachers with hundreds of Salvadorans there to watch their patriot chine on the field. La “Barra Azul” which was a supporter’s club for Mauricio Cienfuegos brought their drums and rhythms to make every home game a party atmosphere. To many the 90 minutes the Galaxy was on the field was just a regular MLS match, to thousands of Salvadorans who were thousands of miles away from home, it was a homecoming of sorts.
Mauricio Cienfuegos brought a sense of pride and honor to being called an LA Galaxy fan. Salvadoran flags, slang, and music were always present at every Galaxy home game which made their 4th of July tailgates that much better. Game time was not until 7:00pm but at 10:00am we were on route to participate in the festivities outside of the stadium. Part of the festival type atmosphere included The Mega 100 FM radio station playing the “old-school” jams, promotional tents with free giveaways, food, music, and soccer!
After every home game it was a must to make your way to the heroes without capes that were out in the parking lot selling the traditional and delicious LA Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs! There is nothing like the taste of a Galaxy victory but those bacon wrapped dogs come a close second and are still the best consolation food after a rare team loss.
From those tailgates at the Rose Bowl, to our defeats in MLS Cups, to our first title, and to being the first to five, one thing has maintained its course and that is the loyalty that I continue to feel for this club that has meant so much to me. To me the Los Angeles Galaxy is more than just a soccer club, it is where I feel within family. Every time you see a fellow G wearing their “Old-School” Galaxy jerseys at a home game; a Cienfuegos jersey in particular, you get a sense of camaraderie. You know that you both made that same walk through those General Admission tunnels at the Rose Bowl and have been fortunate enough to be on this amazing ride since ’96.
Jose Duran @joseduransports