I get the sense after the 4-0 loss to Colorado that the big red PANIC button has already been pushed for many Galaxy fans, and perhaps, within the organization as well.
That might be part of the problem, actually.
Last season, the team lacked cohesion and cooperation. Yet, due to the pressure piled up when losses mounted (as well as injuries), the Galaxy roster kept changing. Many trades were made and the lineup shuffled. Guess what? No great improvement in performance.
There were certain factors affecting the match last night. The coaching changes the Galaxy have gone through, for years now, leave each new coach in an interesting position. They are basically stuck with the old coaches' team for a while. Ruud has to play with at least some players Frank Yallop chose, even if he wouldn't have made the same choice. Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz hadn't played a competitive game together yet. Both Landon and David Beckham had to deal with jet lag and weariness from international games on Wednesday. The altitude in Colorado was a factor. The poor penalty call was another negative factor.
Forget the 4-0 scoreline to take a different look. Last night, the Galaxy kept the score versus Colorado close for longer than the Houston Dynamo did the New England Revolution. (2-0 by halftime) Yet I doubt anyone with the Dynamo, fan or otherwise, is freaking out at the team's supposed ineptitude.
What gives a team perspective, though, is history. The Dynamo could be calm, if unhappy about their loss. They're the defending champions of MLS. No 3-0 loss (to a Twellman-less Revs, no less), or 6-1 loss (to Gamba Osaka) is going to take that away and make them panic. They have an off night, they can go back to Houston and regroup. Two MLS trophies in a row give them the confidence to ride things out. A few changes may be made, but the team believes in the core of their players. That familiarity shows on the field, even when they don't have their best day.
The Galaxy meanwhile, have to deal with the taint of the past two years - failure to reach the playoffs. That shame clings, and it probably keeps everyone jittery. The semi-collective meltdown after the bad call reveals this. The fans, both the newbie Beckham arrivals and some of the faithful who remember fondly when Galaxy teams always made the playoffs, are apoplectic. The real impact, though, is if the front office is already planning more moves. So much for building continuity if that starts to happen.
Bottom line, with two championships in hand recently, the Dynamo have more than earned the benefit of the doubt when they take a spanking. They will probably bounce back. The Galaxy haven't that same benefit. Ruud Gullit kept his cool, relatively, but his ability as coach will be tested in this situation - reviving his team after a loss that is so demoralizing and begins his tenure with a losing note.
An even more sour note is the injury to Ruiz.
Here, another team also provides perspective - two veteran players went down with injuries on the first day of this MLS season.
Yet New England regrouped, and the team even scored a final goal with their veteran, Steve Ralston, off the field due to injury. The Revs could have been disheartened, but they continued to take the play to Houston.
Ralston's injury was a fluke, though. He fell over a player and landed badly on his shoulder. It's a shame, but no one is really to blame.
I understand that O'Brien, the young player who felled Ruiz, might be looking to impress his coach, but scissoring tackles from behind aren't the way to do that. Hustle and score, or make excellent plays, like New England's rookies, to make a positive impact.
So the Galaxy might miss Ruiz for a while. The Revs finished off their triumph without Ralston and played the whole time without Twellman. Granted, Colorado wasn't at full-strength, either, but Houston had a tired Brian Ching and no Rico Clark.
Can the Galaxy contain the fall-out of their opening-day fiasco and bounce back? Of course they can - whether they will is another matter. Veteran or rookie, the pressure on the Galaxy is intense by MLS standards. The one player I'm not really worried about freaking out in the wake of the setback is David. He's been hung in effigy after World Cup 1998, for heaven's sake. He can handle this, but he can't carry the team alone. The rest of the players have to toughen up and suck it up, big time. Every team is going to come at them, excited at the attention a victory over the Galaxy will earn. No ref will want to be seen as favoring Beckham's team. That's just the way it is. The Galaxy players have to learn to deal.