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There Is No Life in This Galaxy

Soccer: It falls to D.C. United, 2-1, for eighth loss in 11 games.


It has lost its hold on first place in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.

It has lost eight of its last 11 games.

It has lost a significant number of its fans.

It lost again on Sunday, 2-1, to Washington D.C. United in front of 24,536 at RFK Stadium.

It could soon lose the home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Amazingly, considering its 12-0 start to the season, losing and the Los Angeles Galaxy have almost become synonymous. And it has the coaches and players completely baffled.

"I wish I could pinpoint it, but I can't," said defender Dan Calichman, the team's captain. "If you look our lineup, it's a solid lineup. I don't know what it is. Winning breeds winning and maybe losing breeds a little losing."

A little losing? Sunday's defeat was typical of the way the Galaxy has played for the past two months. The team has completely lost its way. It is struggling to score goals and struggling to stop opposing teams from scoring.

"We were doing that at the beginning of the year," Calichman said. "It seems like we lost that somehow."

On Sunday, it took D.C. United only three minutes to take the lead. A crossing pass from Bolivian national team midfielder Marco Antonio Etcheverry on the left dropped to John Harkes at the edge of the Galaxy penalty area, with Los Angeles goalkeeper Jorge Campos racing out of the net to challenge for the ball.

Harkes, with his back to the goal, rose to head the ball, and his backward header looped over Campos and into the net. It was a freak goal, certainly not a planned one, but the way the Galaxy's luck has been running, the attempt was bound to succeed.

"It's not a hard guess Campos is coming out of the net," Harkes said. "I saw him drifting. I don't know what he was doing. It was terrible position, really. I couldn't see him, but I knew he wasn't where he should be, so I knocked it as far as I could."

With Calichman, fellow defender Robin Fraser and forward Cobi Jones playing despite nursing injuries, the Galaxy struggled to get into the game. Washington dominated the midfield and kept up its pressure. Frequently, it was only last-second saves from Campos that prevented the Galaxy from falling further behind.

There was little Campos could do about D.C. United's second goal, however. It came 10 minutes into the second half. A corner kick from Etcheverry on the right caught the Galaxy defense flat-footed and U.S. Olympic team defender Eddie Pope headed the ball just inside the right post for his first MLS goal.

Coach Lothar Osiander, with limited options on an injury-depleted bench, eventually used all three of his substitutes. First, Garvey came on in place of Cobi Jones, then Curt Onalfo came on for Fraser and finally Guillermo Jara replaced Chris Armas.

The moves did nothing to curb Washington's attack, with Etcheverry time and again setting up forwards Jaime Moreno and Raul Diaz Arce for scoring opportunities.

Coming into the game, D.C. United (11-14) was 6-0 at home when leading after 75 minutes, so when that mark passed, it seemed inevitable that the Galaxy would lose. But not without a fight.

Striker Eduardo Hurtado, frustrated by a relentless Washington defense that constantly blocked his way, tugged his shirt, nipped at his heels and generally made it difficult for him to get a shot off, finally succeeded.

He collected the ball, wrong-footed a pair of defenders, glanced up to see D.C. United backup goalkeeper Mark Simpson off his line, and fired a shot that dipped in below the crossbar to make it 2-1 in the 77th minute. It was "El Tanque's" 15th goal of the season.

It was also the Galaxy's last hurrah. The team returns home with a 15-8 record, in second place behind the Kansas City Wiz in the conference and facing a game against the Wiz at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

That does not give Osiander much time to find a way to stop the losing.

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