Tonight, the San Jose Earthquakes begin their 2014 MLS season, the last they will spend in tiny Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University. Next year, they’ll be at their new home.
Sports offer an easy way to see how time passes. Here is the oft-posted picture of my ticket from the very first MLS game:
Might seem like no big deal, but hey, it made Wikipedia. Here’s the entry for April 6, 1996:
- Fighting breaks out in Monrovia, Liberia, between various rebel factions struggling for power in the country's interrupted civil war. Several foreign nationals leave the nation.
- Major League Soccer kicks off in front of an overflow crowd of 31,683 packed in Spartan Stadium, to witness the historic first game. San Jose Clash forward Eric Wynalda scores the league's first goal in a 1–0 victory over D.C. United.
- Turkish authorities begin Operation Hawk, an army offensive against rebels from the Kurdish Worker's Party in southeastern Turkey.
War everywhere, and a soccer match in San Jose, California. I was 42 years old and still in grad school. Eric Wynalda saved the league from what would have been a crushing embarrassment if the first game was scoreless:
Since then? The Clash got rid of their stupid nickname and returned to their roots, re-adopting The Earthquakes from their pre-MLS days. They won the MLS championship on two occasions, saw the franchise move to Houston, saw an expansion franchise return the name Earthquakes to the league, and now it’s 2014.
Times change in other ways. The optimism of Phil Schoen and Ty Keough in that ESPN intro seemed silly at the time … for some people, it still seems silly, I’m sure. But MLS is still around, with 19 teams now. And that old saw about how the U.S. would finally accept soccer when all of those kids playing the game grew up? Well, there’s this … I hope he doesn’t mind:
Not sure when this was … around 1997, I’d guess. That’s my nephew on the field at Spartan Stadium. He grew up to be an analyst for … the San Jose Earthquakes. He works with some of the same people who played on those old Clash teams. Times change, indeed.
And as the U.S. Men look towards this year’s World Cup, we have memories like this to look back on. Here is the what was named the second-best moment in U.S. soccer history: