Carlos Ruiz, the Philadelphia Union's new Guatemalan striker, said the words all Philly fans love to hear after the team's 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., on March 26. The win took the Union to 2-0-0 in the early stages of the Major League Soccer season.
"The fans out in L.A. don't feel the passion of the game like in Philly," said Ruiz, a former Galaxy player. "For me, I was nervous in the beginning because I saw the stadium crowd and the fans and how they were screaming. That was crazy. Knowing that in this city the fans love soccer, that's special for everybody."
The first-place Union will try to keep their momentum going ... and the fans squarely on their side ... when the play the Los Angeles Galaxy at 10:30 p.m. EDT Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The match airs live on The Comcast Network and on channel 474 on DirecTV's "Direct Kick" package.
Although the Galaxy (1-1-0) are coming off a 4-1 loss to Real Salty Lake, they still pose a measuring stick for the nascent Union. One of the "glamour" clubs of MLS, the Galaxy get the services of American star Landon Donovan back for this match after his two-game stint with the United States National Team.
The Galaxy can also count on marquee names like David Beckham and Juan Pablo Angel to make life tough for the Union on Saturday night. Former New York Red Bulls player Angel scored a goal in the loss to Real Salt Lake, so he's evaluating his early play with the Galaxy with a grain of salt. The Colombian striker scored 58 goals in his New York days.
"I wish it would have been under different circumstances," Angel told MLS' website. "But it's always important to get off the mark, especially on a new team. I have a mix of emotion, because it wasn't a good game for us."
The Union have yet to concede a goal after opening the season with back to back 1-0 wins over the Houston Dynamo (March 19) and the Whitecaps. New Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon has inspired a lot of confidence in the team, according to central defender Danny Califf.
"The communication is better," Califf said in the locker room after the win over Vancouver. "We have a steady group of defenders. Last year was a revolving door until about the last 10 games of the season. As a unit, we've been able to build some camaraderie. We have a strong back four, and we know each other's tendencies.
"A lot of the success comes down to the goalkeeper," Califf continued. "As good as Faryd is, we didn't give him a lot of work to do today. Still, he made the saves when he had to. That gives the defense a lot of confidence. It's invaluable."
Union manager Peter Nowak was named executive vice president of soccer operations this week, in addition to his coaching duties. CEO Nick Sakiewicz and the ownership group have a lot of confidence in Nowak's abilities, and the quick success on the field in 2011 certainly doesn't hurt. For his part, Nowak is enjoying the bright start to the season - especially the play of Ruiz.
"With Carlos up top, we play (the ball) to him then make runs off him," Nowak said. "We still need to improve that, because he is the guy who can hold the ball up and make good passes from there."