LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho during a training session on the campus of UCLA on July 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Real Madrid will play their next friendly soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
When I heard the Galaxy were playing Real Madrid in the World Football Challenge, my first thought was "Wow, Jose Mourinho must really like LA".
Indeed, Mourinho has enjoyed using the UCLA campus as an offseason training camp with Chelsea, Inter Milan, and again this year, Real Madrid. So he likes LA. I'm sure the fellows over at Managing Madrid are happy about the upcoming game. Same goes for LA's following of Real Madrid fans. (Consumers, actually, but I'll save that rant for another post)
But this isn't a Madrid blog, this is LAG Confidential, and I'm not sure Galaxy fans are all that excited about this friendly.
For the second year in a row, the Galaxy are playing Real Madrid, which sounds good in theory. The problem is, historically these international friendlies tend not to draw as well the second time around. The stars and prestige might still be there, but the hype just isn't as high. A one event event becomes something you can watch on Fox Soccer Channel for free.
It doesn't help that Galaxy fans weren't invited this year. For season ticket holders, the game wasn't included as a bonus match, which was the case last season. So off the bat, Galaxy STH's are being asked to fork over at least $50 for an event they essentially saw last year for free. The Angel City Brigade isn't actively participating, and while I can't speak for LARS, I'm guessing they don't care much either.
And then there's the issue of scheduling the friendly the same weekend as the closing of the 405 freeway. Look, Angelinos are unbelievably fickle when it comes to traffic. A cop eating a glazed donut or pork product of some kind on the shoulder is enough to clog the freeway for miles. The perception that Carmageddon is going to be a nightmare is enough to turn away a lot of fans.
As of right now, the cheapest advertised tickets for the friendly are still available on Ticketmaster, which should tell you something about the demand for this game. I've talked to casual and hardcore fans alike, and with the exception of a few Madridistas, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for this game. The scenesters have seen Madrid already, and the supporters are grumbling about playing meaningless friendlies in the middle of an already crowded schedule and Supporter's Shield race.
Now the Galaxy, and MLS teams in general need to schedule these international friendlies, because they need the revenue, because most teams are still losing money. It's that simple. And as much as the fans would like to see the Galaxy focus on, say, winning the Open Cup, the team is losing money this year, after all. That being said, if you're going to schedule a friendly (or two) during the regular season, try and organize the event in a way that doesn't interfere too much with meaningful results.
So while the Galaxy front office does not directly deserve criticism for scheduling the friendly, there might be some question marks about the execution.
I'm not saying the World Football Challenge is all doom and gloom. The Manchester City friendly on July 24th definitely looks intriguing, and worth the time of Galaxy fans. It's unfortunate Carlos Tevez is busy taking part in what has been a mind numbingly boring Copa America, but the squad is loaded with talent, and David Silva are Yaya Toure are especially mesmerizing on the field. I'm even a bit curious about Mario Balotelli.
Unlike the slightly stale thought of another LA Madrid match up, Manchester City are a fresher opponent. In fact, I'd declare them the latest English club that footie fans are willing to pay top dollar to see in person, a crown held by Chelsea not too long ago. Just don't schedule them for a friendly next year.