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SOCCER

This Bet Is About to Pay Off Big

July 27, 2002|PAUL GUTIERREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The talk around the Galaxy compound these days is about timepieces. Pricey brand names such as Rolex, Tag Heuer, Movado and, for the more budget conscious, even Fossils are floating around, and for good reason.

Alexi Lalas made a bet with Carlos Ruiz that if the rookie forward from Guatemala scored 15 goals on the season, Lalas would buy him a new watch.

Ruiz has 14 goals before tonight's match at the Rose Bowl against the Columbus Crew.

"I don't know what kind of watch he's going to get me," Ruiz said with a laugh, "but he's going to owe me one soon. It will be a great gift for my first year here."

Said Lalas: "A deal's a deal. I figure that it's a small price to pay for 15 goals."

Ruiz, the Galaxy's ninth discovery pick, has taken Major League Soccer by storm, scoring two goals in each of his first two games. He is second in MLS scoring to New England midfielder Taylor Twellman, who has 15. Ruiz also is second, along with Ariel Graziani, in points with 28. Twellman leads with 34.

Lalas doesn't want success to come too easily to Ruiz, though.

"The way I figure it," Lalas joked, "I have to take away some of his goals. Some were pretty ugly, and I'm sure I've assisted on others, and he had a couple of penalty kicks. So I think he's really only scored about six goals. It's all about style points from here on in."

And it's also about Ruiz, who was selected last week as a starter for the MLS All-Star team.

"The type of watch he gets will reflect how he plays after getting No. 15," Lalas said, "how he handles it from there--if he settles or goes for more.

"Anybody who scores that many goals should get a watch. I figure the Galaxy ought to go out and buy watches in gross."

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