All Octavio Zambrano asked of the Galaxy players in his first game as their interim coach was the impossible.
“PLAY SOCCER And Forget About Everything Else,” he wrote on the locker room blackboard before Sunday’s game at the Rose Bowl against Tampa Bay.
Forget about the firing last week of Coach Lothar Osiander. Forget about the absent Eduardo Hurtado, who has been missing even when in action. Forget about the nine losses in 12 games. Forget about the booing fans and braying media.
Two hours later, Zambrano appeared in front of that same media and breathed a sigh of relief, a well-earned one after a 4-1 victory over the Mutiny.
Although the Galaxy players might not have forgotten the worst of 1997, they did for once recall the best of 1996.
“I looked over to Robin [Fraser] at one point and I said, ‘My god, this is what we did last year,’ ” captain Dan Calichman said.
“All of a sudden, things were going our way again. All the players felt that way on the field. We haven’t felt that all year.”
The fun was back.
Will the fans be next?
The attendance on Sunday was announced as 19,232, not bad but far less than the Galaxy’s MLS-leading average of 28,916 from a year ago.
“They’ll start coming back when we put a winning streak together,” said the team’s chairman, Marc Rapaport.
That won’t be easy. The Galaxy’s next two games are on the road. No one knows for sure whether Osiander was the problem. No one knows for sure whether Zambrano is the solution.
But, for one day, he was.
Asked his expectations for the future, he said he had none.
“I’m going to savor the moment,” he said.
A.A. Milne once said, “Golf is popular simply because it is the best game at which to be bad.” . . .
I’d like to have heard Tom Lehman’s thoughts on that when his ball plunged into the water at the 17th on Sunday. . . .
I applaud sportswriters who cover the NBA for their soft hearts, voting Karl Malone the MVP after the regular season for what I assume was a career achievement award. . . .
Next year, they can give it to Susan Lucci. She at least knows when to foul. . . .
Malone might be the best power forward ever, but he will not be the MVP as long as Michael Jordan is playing. . . .
Jordan had that to prove in the playoffs this year. . . .
What’s his inspiration for next year? He wants his sixth ring in the ‘90s, one more than Magic Johnson won in the ‘80s. . . .
What does Magic want? . . .
A Super Bowl ring. He, Danny Villanueva and the Wasserman family are among those talking to King owners Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski about joining them in bringing an NFL team to the Coliseum. . . .
Young pitcher Greg Dominy literally struck a blow for gender equity last week. Angered when Colorado Silver Bullet Kim Braatz-Voisard mouthed off to his catcher, he hit her with a pitch. Just like he would have done to a guy. . . .
On his birthday Sunday, Brett Butler became the first 40-year-old to start in center field since Willie Mays was in his last full season with the Giants in 1971. . . .
In comparing Jim Edmonds’ catch last week to Mays’ famous one off Vic Wertz’ bat, John Hall makes an excellent point. . . .
In Kauffman Stadium, where the distance to center is 402 feet, Edmonds’ made his catch at 395. In the Polo Grounds, where the corresponding distance was a serious 483 feet, Mays made his at 455. . . .
Hall agrees Edmonds’ catch was sensational, but adds, “To equal Willie’s chase, Jim would have had to jump over the K.C. fence and go 60 more feet to catch the ball. TWENTY MORE YARDS!” . . .
Hall, a former Times and Orange County Register columnist, faxed to remind me that the 22nd annual Irrelevant Week begins Wednesday. . . .
I’d ask why the week starts on a Wednesday, but I’m sure that’s irrelevant. . . .
As tradition dictates, the last NFL draft choice will be honored. This year’s Lowsman Trophy winner was Army quarterback Ronnie McAda, selected 240th by Green Bay. . . .
An unwelcome reminder of sports’ irrelevance is Red Wing defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov’s fight for life in a Detroit hospital. . . .
If the Grim Reaper thinks he’s in for an easy time against “The Vladinator,” Eric Lindros could advise him otherwise.
While wondering if anyone seemed to enjoy walking on a sunny Sunday afternoon less than Colin Montgomerie, I was thinking: Barry Bonds maybe, Dodger pitchers now know what it means to be sleepless in Seattle, someone should tell David Kamau he doesn’t have to run forward just because he’s Kenyan.