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Getting Soft in Middle

Galaxy's inconsistency in the midfield has helped contribute to an uneven season.

August 23, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

Chris Albright and Peter Vagenas have unique perspectives on the Galaxy's misfiring midfield, which many point to as the reason the club has had a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of campaign.

Although Albright began the season as a forward, he has also seen the Galaxy's travails through different eyes, having been moved back to a wide midfield position. And Vagenas spent the first half of the Major League Soccer season injured and on the bench, watching the midfield leak like a sieve before joining the fray.

"I think the spacing is more the problem than anything else," Albright said. "We need to get our midfield line close enough to the forwards where we can support them. If our midfield line stays in touch with our forwards a little bit more ... we'll be able to jell

Albright tweaked his groin before Wednesday night's 1-0 loss at Chicago and sat out the game as a precaution, though he said he'd be ready when the Galaxy plays the New England Revolution this afternoon at the Home Depot Center.

The Galaxy needs his speed in the midfield, especially after its dreadful performance against the Fire, in which the Galaxy attempted only two shots, one on goal, and with the loss of Sasha Victorine for at least six weeks because of a broken right hip.

"Our whole team staying compact [is key]," said Albright, whose 10 points on three goals and four assists rank second on the Galaxy. "I think the defense needs to stay in touch with the midfield when the midfield pushes up ... and we can't be 60 yards from the front line to the back line. It's got to be more like 40 yards. The whole team moving in support of each other will give us a better chance."

Vagenas agreed.

"Soccer games are won and lost in the midfield," he said.

"We need to focus on the transition from defense to offense. From offense to defense, I think we do a fairly good job. But sometimes I think from defense to offense, we're a little lackadaisical in putting the same effort forth when we have the ball than when we don't have the ball."

But Vagenas also said that the Galaxy's problems in an underachieving season could be traced to its mental state as defending MLS champion.

"Last year, we hadn't won the MLS Cup so we were kind of blindly running a race and going all out, not knowing where the finish line was because we were never there," he said. "This year, we kind of know the finish line is right there and we can get there and we ... haven't put the pedal to the floor.

"Maybe blindly we need to say, 'You know what, we're no good. Let's go at it,' like we did all through last year, no matter what our record was, no matter how many championships we had. We hadn't won the MLS Cup so ... there was that sense of urgency."

Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid said he was merely looking for more consistency out of his midfield.

"A lot of it is just mentality," Schmid said. "It always comes down to a one-[versus]-one game, no matter what systems you play or how you slice it. It's a matter of, do you impose yourself on your opponent or does your opponent impose himself on you? We just have to be better about ... winning that battle."

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