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Galaxy Hurting as Broken Leg Sidelines Calichman for Season

Soccer: Coupled with the loss of Cobi Jones to World Cup duty, the lineup will be tested.

May 08, 1998|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Galaxy defender Dan Calichman, whose leg was broken in Wednesday night's game against the Colorado Rapids, will be lost to the Major League Soccer team for the rest of the season, the club said Monday.

Calichman, 30, will undergo surgery this morning at St. Luke's Hospital in Pasadena and will be sidelined four to five months.

The team captain broke both the tibia and fibula bones in his right leg when he was tackled by Colorado and U.S. World Cup team defender Marcelo Balboa early in the second half of the Galaxy's 7-4 victory at the Rose Bowl.

Galaxy Coach Octavio Zambrano Thursday expressed disappointment at the "reckless" nature of Balboa's challenge.

"One of Marcelo's trademarks is his ability to tackle the ball hard," Zambrano said. "I don't think he's a dirty player, by any means, but I think there was an amount of recklessness there, especially for a player with that amount of experience.

"If we were talking about a rookie kid who comes in and doesn't know his way around and just throws his body left and right, things like that could happen. But for an accomplished player like Marcelo, it's reckless, to say the least."

The injury occurred in the Galaxy's half of the field when Calichman and Balboa both lunged for a loose ball. Balboa, who has played a record 126 games for the U.S. national team and has an Olympic Games and two World Cup tournaments on his resume, came in hard, with his right leg outstretched and locked. His studs slammed into Calichman's shin with sickening force.

"Obviously, he was going for the ball," said Zambrano, who reviewed a videotape of the incident Thursday. "Because if he wasn't, I would be very upset. But it was one of the those tackles where you put your leg out there and you have no chance of getting hurt, because your leg is stiff, your muscles are tightened and your studs are up.

"I guess what Marcelo wanted to do was just push the ball away with the sole of his foot, but he caught Dan's shin and that was the end of it. It's gruesome when you see it on the tape."

Balboa said Wednesday night that he had not intended any harm and was sick about what had happened. Calichman said Thursday that he realizes there was no malice behind the tackle.

In today's 1 1/2- to two-hour operation, orthopedic surgeon Ron Kvitne, the Galaxy team doctor, and trauma surgeon Robert Chandler will insert a metal rod into Calichman's leg. Danny Villanueva, the team's president and general manager, said it is almost certain Calichman will not play again this season.

Villanueva visited Calichman at the hospital on Thursday morning and said the former Williams College player was "in as good spirits as you could expect under the circumstances."

The Galaxy will seek relief from MLS in trying to acquire another American defender to replace Calichman without that player's salary counting against the salary cap, Villanueva said. League rules provide for such relief in the case of injury to key players.

That way the team would not have to use the fifth foreigner spot and the salary cap room it still has available. The Galaxy, unbeaten one-quarter of the way through the season, continues to pursue a Mexican forward to bolster its league-leading offense.

In the meantime, Zambrano has to juggle the players he has.

"I think between Danny Pena and Paul Caligiuri we have the combination for a suitable replacement," he said. "We might play with three in the back [switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 3-5-2 lineup], with Robin Fraser as sweeper.

"Fraser, Pena and Caligiuri are all seasoned professionals and I know they can step in and assume leadership roles. But it's more than what Dan Calichman does on the field. It's the intangible things that we are going to miss more than anything else."

Zambrano met with the Galaxy players Thursday morning and explained what would have to be done in the absence of Calichman and Cobi Jones, who will be missing for two months while on World Cup duty with the U.S. team.

"I told them we have to deal with the facts," Zambrano said, "and the facts are that neither Danny nor Cobi are going to be with us, so don't look outside [for help]. We are the ones who are going to have to go out there and play."

The Galaxy's next game is on the road against the Columbus Crew on May 17.

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