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Galaxy Goes Under for Third Time in Loss to Rapids

Soccer: Faltering Los Angeles falls to Denver, 1-0, after Agogo's shot in sudden-death overtime bounces of Fraser into own net.

June 11, 2000|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — Three weeks ago, not long after his team had defeated then-slumping D.C. United, Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid had a kind word for Major League Soccer's defending champion.

"Right now, things just aren't bouncing right," he said. "At some point, that could be our situation, too, so I certainly empathize with that."

Welcome to that "situation."

The Galaxy lost its third game in a row Saturday night when it was beaten, 1-0, in overtime by the Colorado Rapids on a quirky goal by Junior Agogo in front of 13,431 at Mile High Stadium.

The goal came 4:56 into sudden-death overtime when a clearance kick by Galaxy defender Paul Caligiuri from inside the penalty area went straight to Agogo, who controlled the ball and then fired a shot that was heading wide left.

Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the ball struck defender Robin Fraser, despite his best efforts to get out its way, and rebounded into the net just inside the left post.

It was Agogo's league-high fourth game-winning goal of the season and improved the Rapids' record to 7-8-0.

"They all count," said a beaming Agogo, stripped to the waist and signing autographs for his rapidly growing fan club. "They all count."

Caligiuri was understandably less pleased.

"It was a situation where the ball bounced inside the box and maybe I should have just cleared it immediately, but I took a second touch," he said. "I think it was one of the unluckiest goals I've ever seen."

It was a game either team could have won, intense, well played and with plenty of scoring chances.

Toward the end, playing with only 10 men after defender Ezra Hendrickson had been ejected after receiving a second yellow card, the Galaxy appeared to have the upper hand.

Twice, Luis Hernandez finally managed to break free of the shackles put on him by Colorado defender Chris Martinez, but the Mexican striker either shot wide or saw his effort blocked by Adin Brown, the Rapids' U.S. Olympic team goalkeeper.

"It was good," said Martinez. "He's an incredible player, very experienced, very smart. He knows how to make the runs, knows how to sneak around. He tries to lull you into a false sense of security and, boom, he takes off. He's got the pace and everything. It was a tough matchup, that's for sure."

All the same, Hernandez now has played four games for the Galaxy and still is looking for his first MLS goal.

"Our team didn't deserve to lose tonight," a subdued Schmid said. "I felt they played well at times. I thought they fought as a unit. In fact, when we went to 10 men [in the 72nd minute], I felt we dominated the game.

"It's obviously a disappointing way to lose."

And an odd way to win. Even Colorado Coach Glenn Myernick admitted as much.

"It was lucky," he said. "I think Caligiuri would probably like to have that back and just hoof it away someplace. He tried to do a little too much with it. Junior [Agogo] kept working. Twice he kept [the play] alive. At the time he shot it, his legs were gone, and that thing [the shot] was going nowhere near the goal."

But the ball struck Fraser, who had come into the game in the 57th minute after missing the last three matches because of a severe ankle sprain.

"You hate to see that happen, but we're not going to turn it back in," Myernick said of a play that anywhere else in the world but MLS would be called an own goal.

The Galaxy (6-3-6) was missing three starters. Forward Cobi Jones and defender Greg Vanney are still with the U.S. national team, which plays Mexico today, and defensive midfielder Danny Pena is sidelined by a right knee sprain.

Schmid started a new-look lineup, benching forward/midfielder Sasha Victorine, who has been out of form, and giving Seth George the chance to partner Hernandez up front. Peter Vagenas started in midfield in place of Pena, and Brian Kelly was a lively addition on the left flank, a position he could make his own with more displays as promising as Saturday's.

"It's been a long time since I got that many minutes," said Kelly. "I'm disappointed that we lost. It was a game that we shouldn't have lost."

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