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GALAXY

Vagenas Has Learned to Enjoy Game

June 01, 2002|PAUL GUTIERREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Coming off the field after playing 45 minutes of the Galaxy's 3-0 exhibition victory over CD Aguila of El Salvador Wednesday night, Peter Vagenas was approached by Sigi Schmid.

The Galaxy coach wanted to know how his midfielder felt after Vagenas had logged the most time in a game since starting the season on the injured list because of a strained lower back.

"I told him that it was just fun," said Vagenas, who said he initially tweaked his back playing pick-up basketball with teammates two days before the Galaxy began training camp.

With the Galaxy's franchise-record five-game Major League Soccer trip coming to a close today at Colorado, Vagenas is expected to have more fun while making his biggest contribution of the MLS season.

But while some see Vagenas regaining his starting position against the Rapids, he prefers to take it slowly, as in off the bench after halftime.

Schmid was noncommittal.

"We feel pretty comfortable right now playing him 45 minutes," Schmid said.

"Whether we can play him more, we'll have to see. I think he helps us ... retain possession of the ball."

Vagenas came off the injured list on May 22 and last week at New England played only the last 19 minutes of the Galaxy's 3-2 loss.

Having been the Galaxy's leader in appearances (26) last season, being forced to sit out the first nine weeks of this season was disconcerting.

"This thing kind of lingered on," Vagenas said. "It was scary because it was the first time my body didn't really respond to treatment and it wouldn't get better right away.

"After we shut it down completely for the six weeks, it healed up."

Vagenas, 24, said the worst he had suffered before were ankle injuries that healed relatively quickly.

"It has been the biggest trial of my career thus far, even though my career is rather young," said the third-year player out of UCLA. "It's just been mentally draining, not being able to do something physically that you wake up and have been able to do every day.

"But at the same time, I think it was a blessing because you take it for granted and as a player you come out, sometimes, maybe you're a little wishy-washy about practice, maybe you're a little tired ... you're not really into it."

The time away, though, gave Vagenas a chance to reflect.

"I made a vow to myself that when I came back, every single practice I'd go out there with the energy of wanting to play," he said.

"I can easily remember the times when I was stuck on the training room or I didn't even travel or [was] just sitting on the sidelines."

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