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Campos Back, May Play Forward


It's an event of less than biblical proportions, but the Galaxy's prodigal son returns today from Mexico, hoping to lead the Major League Soccer team out of the wilderness.

Goalkeeper Jorge Campos, fresh from helping his other club team, Atlante, to the quarterfinals of the Mexican League playoffs (and within a goal of the semifinals), is back in town.

Which leaves under-siege Galaxy Coach Lothar Osiander with a decision to make.

Does he put Campos in the nets in place of David Kramer, who has been there for the first nine games and performed reasonably well?

Or does he play Campos as a forward, hoping to inject some life into the Galaxy's pitiful offense? The team is averaging less than a goal a game, worst in the league, and Campos' skills could be useful up front.

Osiander wasn't about to tip his hand in advance of today's game at the Rose Bowl against the Columbus Crew, but the return of the colorful keeper is likely to lift the other players emotionally, if nothing else.

The Mexican national team star has a mischievous streak that at once dispels tensions and inspires confidence. For Campos, the game is still fun, and that's something the Galaxy seems to have forgotten.

After a 12-0 start in its first season, Los Angeles' humble--to put it kindly--2-7 beginning has wrapped the team in a shroud of gloom and left it doubting its ability.

One of the reasons for the inauspicious start, of course, has been the absence of key players in every game. Apart from Campos, the Galaxy has frequently had to do without Cobi Jones, Eduardo Hurtado, Mauricio Cienfuegos and Martin Machon because of injuries and various national team commitments.

Today's game, in fact, marks the first time since the Galaxy's MLS Western Conference championship victory in Kansas City last Oct. 13 that Osiander has had every starter available.

That's more than seven months ago. Small wonder the Galaxy front office is referring to the match against the Crew as Opening Day II.

While the whole team will be lifted, the two players directly impacted by Campos' return are Kramer and backup Kevin Hartman, the former UCLA standout who performed exceptionally well in the team's 1-1 tie with Aston Villa of England on Wednesday.

Kramer probably will revert to backup and Hartman will drop to No. 3. Kramer said Campos' reappearance might help turn the team around.

"I would assume so," he said. "I'm definitely not the flamboyant guy he is. But I'm not going to change my style. It's gotten me this far.

"Well see in the next couple of games how it changes the team."

And might Campos play as a forward, keeping Kramer in the lineup?

"I highly doubt he [Campos] will be up front right away," Kramer said. "I can't imagine him playing 90 minutes up front."

In this Galaxy season, though, stranger things have happened.

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