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Schmid Will Look for a New Pattern

Soccer: Galaxy coach will be forced to shuffle his lineup tonight, but he's becoming accustomed to that.

May 24, 2000|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FOXBORO, Mass. — His team is unbeaten one third of the way through the Major League Soccer season, but Sigi Schmid keeps running into one difficulty after another.

Take tonight's game against the New England Revolution at Foxboro Stadium.

Once again, the Galaxy coach has to shuffle the deck, finding replacements for defender Robin Fraser, sidelined by a bad ankle sprain, and forward Luis Hernandez, who is unavailable while taking care of family matters in Mexico.

Only once this season has Schmid been able to field the same starting 11 players in consecutive games. The frequent absence of starters makes cohesion difficult, which translates into sometimes sloppy and unproductive play.

So far, the Galaxy has managed to overcome that through experience and because the backbone of the team has stayed pretty much intact. Five players, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, defender Greg Vanney, midfielders Danny Pena and Mauricio Cienfuegos and forward Cobi Jones, have started every game as Los Angeles has jumped to a 6-0-5 start.

Fraser has missed only one game before tonight, and Simon Elliott also has appeared in 10 of the previous 11 games. The New Zealand national team midfielder looked especially impressive in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Washington D.C. United, even though it was Hernandez who garnered all the attention.

"I just try to help out [Pena] defensively and try to get forward as much as I can, so I guess I'm trying to fulfill a bit of a box-to-box role," Elliott said. "Hopefully, it's working.

"It's hard work but it's a lot of fun, especially with some of the guys we've got on this team. Now we've got Hernandez. You could tell from some of his touches [against D.C. United] that he's a world-class player."

Schmid hopes the addition of the Mexican striker--who returns Friday in time for Saturday's game against San Jose at the Rose Bowl--doesn't change the Galaxy's chemistry too much, but knows it will take time for the players to adjust.

"I think and I hope that at the end of the day we will be a better team," he said.

Knowing that World Cup 2002 qualifying will rob him of a half-dozen starters for several games this summer, Schmid is trying to give bench players significant minutes so that when they are called upon to start, they will be ready.

He started Haitian forward Sebastien Vorbe against D.C. United and was pleased with his performance. When Fraser was injured, he brought U.S. Olympic team defender Danny Califf on for his MLS debut. Califf probably will get his first start tonight.

Chances are, Sasha Victorine will take Hernandez's place against the Revolution. The former UCLA player has started three games in his rookie season and has looked promising. He was unavailable for the D.C. United game after sustaining a concussion against San Jose last Wednesday when he clashed heads with an Earthquake player and required stitches in the back of his scalp.

There are others waiting in the wings.

"Vorbe is somebody who's going to get better from game to game," Schmid said. "I thought Califf came in and played well. Those were his first minutes. Peter Vagenas needs to get baptized as well. Adam Frye has had some pretty good moments when he's come in.

"As those guys get playing time, I think the cohesion will come again and we'll become a better team."

In the meantime, school's back in.

"The only thing that's difficult right now is it's sort of like we're going through a second preseason," Schmid said. "We have to start again, divide up the roles again, find out who can play what, and who's a good reserve for this particular player at this particular position, and who can step in and do things."

Mostly what they need to do is help the Galaxy keep pace with the surprising Kansas City Wizards, 9-0-2 and six points ahead of the Galaxy in the Western Division.

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