Memories of ’96


Categories :

Like everything in 2020, Major League Soccer’s silver anniversary has been completely derailed by this era’s greatest global crisis.

Gone are all the celebrations of 25 years of MLS, commemorating the history of the nine founding teams that remain and the expectations and excitement surrounding the two new expansion clubs. Yet, nothing comes close to losing the sense of social engagement that we crave when we flock to games throughout the season, spending time with friends, family, and our beloved Los Angeles Galaxy.

It really has been an awful mess, to put it as mildly as possible. But, a year from now, we will hopefully be focusing on the Euros, Copa America, Gold Cup, and a normal MLS season. We have a lot to look forward to in 2021 and that is definitely a source of optimism.
However, we still have a long way to go before all that can happen in a safe environment. In the meantime, why don’t we forget about 2020 for a bit?

Think back to 1996 and how carefree we were! The ’90s was the last great decade. Although the team and the league were far from the polished corporate machine that they are today, there was a certain charm to MLS and that Galaxy team in ’96.

I can gladly say I was there for the first game. I had bought a pair of tickets and convinced one of my college roommates to go with me. It was his first ever soccer game and I think he was surprised at the huge crowd that piled into the Rose Bowl. I wish I had a more vivid recollection of everything that happened that day (there was so much going on), but I still remember a wave of emotions that I was experiencing something new, as unique as those ’96 Galaxy jerseys, and that was ours, like Dodger Dogs, Griffith Observatory, and toxic sunsets at the beach.

I fell in love with the Galaxy from the start, and, through all the ups and downs, that love has matured.

Because I’m not the only one that feels this way, I reached out to other Galaxy fans and asked them to share their memories from that glorious Saturday evening of April 13, 1996. Game days at the Rose Bowl weren’t just an event, they were an experience.

When did you attend your first ever soccer game?
Margie Banuelos (Pasadena): First soccer game was the Galaxy’s opener in 1996
Steve Castellanos (Lynwood): The first soccer game I recall attending was a match during the 1984 Olympics.
Carlisa Perdomo (Van Nuys): I attended my first soccer game when I was a young girl. I grew up with soccer. My parents had a men’s soccer team from El Salvador called U.D.E.T. (Union Deportivo de El Transito)
Linda Pickle (Lake Forest): At World Cup ’94. The first game I ever saw was Romania vs Colombia.
Adam Serrano (Los Angeles): 1996.
Sandro Soler (Valencia): Club Universitario vs. Alfonso Ugarte de Puno (Peruvian League), in 1984.

Before attending your first Los Angeles Galaxy game, what was the last soccer game you attended?
Margie: I had never attended any soccer game.
Steve: Either a friendly international match at the L.A. Coliseum or a 1994 World Cup game.
Carlisa: Probably one from U.D.E.T. First professional would be the ’94 WC Third-Place game at the Rose Bowl.
Linda: The San Jose Clash vs D.C. United match in San Jose for the MLS Inaugural Game.
Adam: Never.
Sandro: Argentina vs. Romania at the 1994 World Cup.

What was your first impression upon entering the Rose Bowl for the inaugural match?
Excitement to experience something new, feeling it in the air and surprised by the number of people that kept filling the stadium. It felt like a big party.
Steve: I was in awe to witness Major League Soccer finally realized in my hometown. I remember grinning like a mad man!
Carlisa: It’s hard to put into words the feeling. I was so excited to see a professional men’s soccer team in L.A.
Linda: I loved the festivities outside. I didn’t sit with the Galaxians and had season tickets at midfield for $17. I loved the pageantry for our first game. My favorite part was when they tore away the covers because of all the people getting into the stadium late. It was due to traffic and long lines.
Adam: I simply remember the energy. Oh, and the traffic that was outside the stadium!
Sandro: I didn’t go to the inaugural game. I had gone to the Rose Bowl before for ’94 World Cup prep games and the Cup. My first Galaxy game in ’96 was a game vs. the San Jose Clash. I felt I was home, after being so used to attending my team’s—Universitario—games back in Peru, I felt I had a team to attend games again after being denied so many years since I moved to the US in 1990.

How did you celebrate the first Galaxy goal, scored by Cobi Jones?
Margie: I don’t remember, probably by jumping up and down and joining in as a group of three guys were chanting, “MetroStars are gonna get their f**cking asses kicked.”
Steve: Jumping around and screaming like a mental patient!
Carlisa: I know that I screamed my head off along with the rest of the Galaxians!
Linda: Probably jumping up and cheering. I don’t remember.
Adam: Can’t recall.
Sandro: I yelled it!

You’re leaving the Rose Bowl after your first Galaxy game. What’s going through your mind?
Margie: That I loved the game and had had so much fun and knew I wanted to come back.
Steve: Can’t wait for the next game!
Carlisa: This is awesome! I can’t wait to come back and see them again.
Linda: This is going to be fun. I hung around with the Galaxians. I was also lucky to find out where the team was going after the game and just joined them, acting like a regular patron. It was also [Galaxy Athletic Trainer] Ivan Pierra’s birthday and they sang happy birthday to him. I got pictures with Cobi Jones and Jorge Campos and took some of the others celebrating.
Adam: I remember a general feeling of excitement. It was something new and different that I hadn’t felt going to a Dodgers or Lakers game. It felt more tangible.
Sandro: Like I said, I was home again.

At what point did you consider joining a supporters’ group? Was there a determining factor?
Margie: I first joined when the team was introduced at an event before the season. I really didn’t know what that meant, I thought it was a club or something. I officially joined the Galaxians but sat in the end zone next to them. It wasn’t until about 2-3 years later that I started joining the group since friends had been part of the group and it seemed like fun and I wanted to join them for an away trip to San Jose.
Carlisa: I joined the Galaxians from the first match. I remember hearing them chant a little before the game. I gravitated toward them. I asked [original Galaxians President] Ozzy [Gomez] if I could join them inside, and he said yes. I loved singing and chanting for the Galaxy throughout the whole game. It was so much fun!
Linda: After World Cup ’94. I found out about the Galaxians from a soccer store owner in Santa Ana and was following the L.A. Salsa (APSL). He told me about the combines while the team was being formed, etc. I even voted for the club’s name and started making friends during the days leading up to the first game.
Sandro: After going to Galaxy games for a couple of years, as nice as it was, I wanted a place where I could show my passion and love and share it with fellow fans. I had always seen the Galaxians banner behind the goal and I said to myself, that has got to be it. So, I joined them in 1998.

Did you attend matches on your own or with someone else?
Steve: Usually with friends. Don’t think I ever attended a 1996 game alone. Seemed like most folks in my circle of friends were eager to attend a game.
Adam: On my own as a young kid.

Who was your favorite player from the 1996 squad?
Margie: Cobi Jones.
Steve: Cienfuegos of course! Paisano!
Carlisa: Mauricio Cienfuegos.
Linda: At the time, it was Campos and Cobi.
Adam: Cienfuegos, Campos, or Harut Karapetyan.
Sandro: Mauricio Cienfuegos.

What was your favorite moment from the 1996 season?
Margie: My favorite moment had to be the opening kick with the stadium full and my introduction to soccer.
Steve: The first game!
Carlisa: One of the best moments was when we found out that we were going to be in the final. I wasn’t able to be there in person, but I had an amazing time celebrating with the Galaxians at a pub in Pasadena. The outcome wasn’t what we expected. But I still had a great time celebrating when the City of Pasadena honored them.
Linda: The doubleheader US vs. Mexico and Galaxy vs. Tampa Bay Mutiny (best team in the West meeting the best in the East). Campos played forward for one game and goalkeeper for the other. I spent the night at the US team hotel. I met [President of the U.S. Soccer Federation] Alan Rothenberg in the restaurant while eating breakfast and told him I was one of those people he wanted to reach to learn to love soccer. He gave me his US Soccer pin.
Adam: When Campos played for Mexico and the Galaxy in one evening.
Sandro: Going to that Clash game.

At what point did you feel that MLS was here to stay?
I didn’t think MLS was here to stay until AEG bought the Galaxy and soccer specific stadiums began to be built.
Steve: Sometime during the third or fourth season.
Carlisa: Probably within the first five years, I knew that MLS was here to stay.
Linda: I always thought it was here to stay but got worried when we dropped the original Florida teams and Uncle Phil [Anschutz] bought half the league.
Adam: When you saw how Los Angeles supported the very first game.
Sandro: Day 1, San Jose Clash vs. D.C. United.

Did you go on any away trips to watch the Galaxy on the road?
Margie: Not during the ’96 season.
Steve: Unfortunately, no.
Carlisa: The main away game that I’ve always tried to go to is San Jose. The other “away” is with the Chivas 2.0. I was able to attend the MLS 2005 Cup in Dallas, Texas.
Linda: In ’96, I made my usual trip to San Jose. The beginning of the rivalry with the Casbah. There were more Galaxians than their group. We sat together on the sideline with our Galaxians banner.
Adam: Nope.
Sandro: Not in ’96. My first road game was in ’98 with the Galaxians to San Jose.

Think about this for a minute before answering. What is one aspect of the Galaxy’s 1996 season that always makes you reminisce?
Margie: The newness of the sport to me, in the United States after the ’94 World Cup, and passion of fans from many countries coming together to support and show love for the sport in Los Angeles. It was fun and an opportunity to connect to what was now my team.
Steve: The joy of having a local professional team and witnessing the loyalty, fervor and embrace of the team by my fellow SoCal people.
Carlisa: I have great family memories with the Galaxians and the L.A. Galaxy. Whenever I attended a game, it was a great family and fun experience. The tailgating before the game was amazing.
Linda: The players and how we had so much time with the players. The tunnel passes were something to treasure. I loved the huge grassy parking lot where we could park where we wanted. I would get there early with others to reserve one of the couple of tables under the trees for the Galaxians tailgate. We had some great characters/fans. The Grand Galactic Emperor, Unca Obi Wan, the Witch Doctor. We may have been naive but loved the atmosphere. Ozzy was the best in creating an experience/identity for our group.
Adam: The makeup of the team and the beautiful jerseys.
Sandro: The beginning. The packed crowds. The excitement. That after so many years of being denied a home league, I have a team and a stadium. I was back home, where I belonged, supporting a full-time football team and league that had been out of my life for so many years. I felt like a fish out of water from 1990 until 1993, and the World Cup and then MLS ended that feeling.

Is there something you wish the club would bring back that was around back in 1996?
Margie: The jerseys.
Steve: The tailgating area was the best at the Rose Bowl and I sincerely miss that aspect.
Carlisa: One of the main things that I wish they’d bring back is the kid’s ticket prices. It would make coming to see a Galaxy game a little bit more affordable for families. Some families can only come to a few games. If there were kid’s ticket prices, that might help them attend more Galaxy games.
Linda: Not ’96, but I loved the Fan Card, where we scanned the card before each game and got points and/or prizes.
Adam: The jerseys <3 Oh wait…we did!
Sandro: The simplicity of it all. It was so simple then; it was for the love of the game. Tickets were $9 and parking was free. It wasn’t about big names (some may argue that it was with Campos), but it was about being there for the sport and the city. No gimmicks. No theatrics. No big show. It was just you and the game.

3 thoughts on “Memories of ’96”

  1. Thank you Edgar for bringing back the memories. Remember when I insisted in giving you a ride home so you wouldn’t have to take the bus all the way back to East LA. I was easier for me to cut to the 5, than for you to get home so late.

Comments are closed.