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Galaxy Looks to Rebound


The Major League Soccer season is at its midway point and the Galaxy, a perennial league power, already finds itself nine points out of first place.

That happens when you lose five of your last seven games.

That gives this week's series against the front-running San Jose Earthquakes, which begins tonight at the Rose Bowl before moving north for a Sunday night game, added significance for the Galaxy.

Sweep the defending MLS Cup champion Earthquakes, who beat the Galaxy in overtime in last year's title game, and the Galaxy puts pressure on its Bay Area rivals. But get swept, and the Galaxy's hopes of winning a division title are just about ruined.

"These two games are vital for us to stay in the race for the Western Division championship," Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid said Wednesday after practice. "Last year we stayed in the race and caught them in the end. We need these two games [to do the same]."

Helping the Galaxy is the return of Cobi Jones, who is back full-time with MLS after playing for the U.S. national team in the World Cup.

"A lot of people are going to talk about how we have to have a sweep, but it's a long season," Jones said. "We haven't even made it to the All-Star game yet so there's a long way to go. There's no reason to panic.

"God forbid we go 0-2 [against San Jose], but that doesn't mean we're out of it. Crazier things have happened in this league."

Jones, who last suited up for the Galaxy on April 27, began the season as the right midfielder. Schmid said, however, that he was considering moving Jones to his more natural forward position to form a more potent attack with high-scoring Carlos Ruiz.

Ruiz, who led the league in goals (10) and points (20) for most of the season, has not scored since June 1 and has fallen to fourth.

"Certainly, goals change games," Schmid said, "and we need to score goals. We've had some chances ... we're just not cool enough sometimes when we need to be in front of the goal."

Save for the Galaxy's 5-0 loss to the New York/New Jersey Metro- Stars on June 15, the defense has been playing well, shutting out opponents in regulation in three of its last four games.

"We've been unlucky in that we've hit some teams that have ended up playing their best games against us," Schmid said. "Part of it is because they're up for Los Angeles and they're ready to go.

"But at the end of the day, what makes things happen is goals. Goals change things. We've got to score goals and we've got to take advantage of our opportunities when we create them. I think that will open up the game and change things very much for our team."

The Galaxy leads the MLS in shots (229) and shots on goal (102) but is tied with Columbus and Kansas City for seventh in goals (18).

Jones expects to jump-start the Galaxy.

"That's the plan," he said. "I mean, they all know me. Hopefully I can give a little burst of energy and change things up.

"Hopefully it starts great right off the bat. But it's going to take a little time for everybody to get used to each other again and settle our lineup a bit because we've had so many people playing different positions all the time. But we have a lot of quality players so I think we'll be all right."

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