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GALAXY NOTES

Jones Helps Drive the Bandwagon

June 28, 2002|PAUL GUTIERREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the player with the most national team appearances in U.S. soccer history, Cobi Jones has run the gamut of emotions with the team.

He saw the wave of interest in his sport crest and then crash after the Americans hosted the World Cup in 1994 and unexpectedly advanced to the second round.

He also was there when the U.S. embarrassed itself in France in 1998 when it finished last while scoring one goal.

This year's historic run to the quarterfinals has kick-started the soccer bandwagon in this country again, and Jones, who played 158 games for the national team, is determined to keep the momentum going, even if he has played in his last World Cup.

"There's no question we took a step back in '98 but we took two steps forward in 2002," said a weary-looking Jones, who returned from South Korea over the weekend and was beginning to feel the effects of jetlag at Staples Center Thursday during a media luncheon.

"To get soccer into the mainstream, and to keep it there, it's going to take a lot of work by promoters, teams, agents. We can't let it die. We've got to keep it on the minds of everybody."

One way to do that, Jones said, is to continue to build soccer-specific stadiums, such as the one utilized by the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer and the National Training Center under construction in Carson that the Galaxy will call home next summer.

"Another step," Jones said, "is higher visibility of MLS, more TV time for MLS on newscasts. Show more than a goal being scored or the final score. Show a great play ... a one-minute clip."

Landon Donovan, 20, who scored two goals in the World Cup, said the performance of the U.S. legitimized the American professional league's standing.

"It showed that players from MLS can perform on the world's biggest stage," said Donovan, who plays for the San Jose Earthquakes. "So hopefully we keep developing and in 2006 we'll see."

Donovan, though, is sure to be highly sought after by more prestigious European clubs. He was asked if he could become a true global star by remaining in MLS and playing in World Cups every four years.

"I don't think it matters," he said. "To be respected you just have to perform and play well."

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Jones took issue with Mexico's downplaying the Americans' 2-0 elimination-game win.

"They're screaming now that it was a fluke," Jones said. "The last eight games, they've won one [in regulation], 1-0, at Azteca Stadium. That's not a fluke, that's par for the course. People have to realize that there's a changing of the guard at the top of CONCACAF."

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Both Jones and Donovan expect Brazil to beat Germany--which ended the United States' run, 1-0--in Sunday's World Cup final.

"Brazil will go after them," Jones said. "Brazil has a good defense and doesn't get enough credit for it. We get caught up in the flair of their offense. They have a good defense too."

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The Galaxy announced their intentions to go after a South Korean player for next season.... Staples Center will show the World Cup's third-place match between South Korea and Turkey on Saturday at 4 a.m. Tickets are free but must be picked up at the arena box office beginning at 10 a.m. today. Doors open at 3 a.m.... A three-year marketing partnership between the Galaxy and the California Youth Soccer Assn.-South also was announced Thursday. The Galaxy and its affiliated company, AEG Marketing, will assume the role of CYSA-South's official agency, offering potential partners soccer programming on the amateur and professional levels.

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