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SOCCER : Scoreless Tie--and Bad Timing

March 23, 1995|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For Major League Soccer, there were lessons to be learned from Wednesday night's international soccer doubleheader at the Coliseum.

Lesson No. 1: Timing is everything.

When Necaxa of Mexico played Luis Angel Firpo of El Salvador on Feb. 12 at the Coliseum, 43,000 fans showed up.

But when Firpo played fellow El Salvadoran league team El Roble Wednesday night, followed by a game between Guadalajara of Mexico and Reggiana of Italy, the crowd barely reached 15,000.

The reason? Mexico was playing Colombia at Mar del Plata, Argentina, for a place in the Pan American Games gold-medal game Friday. That game was televised locally, and fans chose it over the fare at the Coliseum.

(Mexico won, 2-1, and will face Argentina for the Pan Am title.)

Lesson No. 2: Star quality means a lot.

If MLS starts up in April 1996, as projected, its players will have to be of far better quality than those of Firpo and El Roble, who played to a scoreless tie that never stirred any emotion from the crowd.

The first half was played at an almost glacial pace. The second was marginally better. The only players to emerge from the drab affair were the two goalkeepers.

El Roble's Carlos Rivera was battered and bruised by some hard-driving Firpo forwards, but kept a clean sheet, saving well off shots by Raul Toro in the second half.

Firpo goalie Carlos Melendez made the save of the night when he flung himself low to his right to palm away a sharp downward header from close range by El Roble's Uruguayan striker, Fernando Rinaldi, late in the game.

Other than these incidents, the game was of poor quality.

By contrast, the Guadalajara-Reggiana game, won, 2-1, by the Mexican team, was fast-paced and entertaining.

The reason? Chivas, or the Goats, as Guadalajara is nicknamed, features such Mexican national team players as Missael Espinoza, Daniel Guzman and Ramon Ramirez.

Reggiana has Nigerian World Cup star Sunday Oliseh and Portuguese national team winger Rui Aguas, among others.

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