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Galaxy Coach Says Team to Stand Pat

Soccer: Despite six losses in nine games, Osiander doesn't see need to make trades or roster changes.

August 11, 1996|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the low-stakes poker game that is Major League Soccer in its inaugural season, Los Angeles Galaxy Coach Lothar Osiander is sticking with the hand he's been dealt.

The MLS trading deadline is 5 p.m. PDT Monday, but Osiander said the Galaxy will not be altering its roster, even though its recent record suggests some changes might be in order.

"We won't trade anybody," Osiander said. "The offers I get are not good enough."

But not trading for a player does not necessarily mean not acquiring a player. So is the Galaxy going to acquire one?

"No. We have a roster of 20 and that's the way it is," Osiander replied.

All of which indicates that, unlike other MLS teams that have been scrambling to strengthen their rosters and hopefully bolster their playoff chances, the Galaxy will stand pat.

"I like my team as it is," Osiander said. "At the end of the day, you win with a team performance, you don't win with an individual player."

But other clubs have been active in the market, with two Eastern Conference teams--the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew--making especially positive moves.

The Revolution, beaten, 1-0, Thursday night by the Galaxy, two weeks ago persuaded U.S. national team striker Joe-Max Moore to return from Germany. Moore, 25, of Irvine, has scored three goals in his first four games as New England continues to cling to the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.

Hoping to catch New England is Columbus, which on Friday pulled off a momentous coup by acquiring U.S. national team and former UCLA goalkeeper Brad Friedel from Galatasaray, the Turkish first-division club he played for last season. Friedel, 25, from Bay Village, Ohio, will be an instant hit at Columbus and just might be the key to salvaging the Crew's season, while at the same time enhancing his chances for being the national team starter when World Cup '98 qualifying play begins for the Americans Nov. 3.

Either player could have been of immense help to the Galaxy, but the salary cap and the league's unwillingness to further strengthen a team that has been in first place in the Western Conference all season made the acquisition of Moore or Friedel an unlikely proposition.

"I have no money," Osiander joked with reporters after Thursday's victory. "Unless you have money, we can't get anyone."

The Galaxy coach said other MLS teams have, not surprisingly, expressed interest in several of his players.

"They want players who I don't want to give away," he said. "You think I should trade [El Salvador midfielder Mauricio] Cienfuegos somewhere? So I give them Cienfuegos for somebody who sits on the bench? I have to say no. And it's like that all the way down the line, it's not only one guy.

"And then there's the financial considerations I have to put up with [the league's $1.13-million per-team salary cap]. My salary cap is exhausted, so I have to live with the players I have and I'm very happy with them. What we have to do is improve on some of the things we're doing wrong."

So, if Galaxy fans are hoping to see new faces at the Rose Bowl, they will have to wait until next season, which is the normal course of events, according to Osiander.

"We're what, 15-6?" he asked. "You don't build a team in 21 games. It's a process that takes three or four years. And then you can say, 'Now we have a team.' We can't say that now, [although] we have a better team today than we had the first five games, even though we won them. This is a better team [but] the opponents are also much more difficult to play than they were in the first five games."

The Galaxy started the season with 12 consecutive victories but has since lost six of nine games, allowing both the Kansas City Wiz and Dallas Burn to close to within only a point or two of it in the West. Osiander said the fast start bred overconfidence and was perhaps a misleading indicator of his team's ability. The recent losses were almost inevitable.

"There was too much confidence when we were 12-0," he said. "It's once in a lifetime that you're 12-0, and then something happens and for sure it happened to us. But we are on the way up. I think we played better [Thursday] than we did last last Sunday [in a 2-1 shootout loss to Columbus]."

The Galaxy has 11 regular-season games remaining, including today's vital match against the Wiz at Kansas City. A loss there would leave Los Angeles only one point ahead of the Wiz and two ahead of the Burn, which defeated Tampa Bay, 2-1, in Dallas on Saturday night. San Jose (10-11) is fourth, 11 points behind.

The top four teams in each conference advance to the playoffs, with the first playing fourth and second playing third, both in best-of-three series.

The Galaxy's advantage, if any, is that it has more games in hand than its nearest opponents. After today's play, Kansas City (13-12) will have only six games remaining and Dallas (15-9) will have only eight left, including two against Los Angeles. The Galaxy will have 10 games left.

It's that cushion, as well as the confidence he has in his team, that causes Osiander not to worry about the passing of Monday's trade deadline. In low-stakes poker, his hand is good enough.

Unless, of course, he's bluffing.

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