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Galaxy as Good as New Again

Ruiz scores twice as L.A. ends eight-game winless streak by treating inaugural Home Depot Center crowd to 2-0 victory over Colorado.

June 08, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

New stadium.

New uniforms.

New result.

The decidedly new-look Galaxy, defending Major League Soccer champion that it is, finally played as a team deserving of its sparkling jewel of a home. All it took was a chance to play in it and a little fish to christen the Home Depot Center before a sellout crowd of 27,000.

Carlos "El Pescadito" Ruiz returned to the form that earned him MLS most-valuable-player honors last season by scoring both of the Galaxy's goals Saturday in its 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.

Its first multi-goal game this season was doubly relieving for the previously winless Galaxy, which improved to 1-4-4 after playing its first eight games on the road while its new home was under construction. Plus, Coach Sigi Schmid earlier this week had guaranteed a victory in the Galaxy's home opener.

"It just feels good to get a win; it's been a while," Schmid said. "We didn't know how to go about [celebrating a victory] in the locker room.

"I don't know how many tons this whole complex weighs, but [the weight lifted with the win] was that much. It was a huge weight."

On a celebratory day in which Galaxy team members received their championship rings, its MLS Cup title banner was raised and the great Pele stood at midfield for the ceremonial coin toss, it took 50 minutes for the pressure to subside.

That's when Ruiz struck.

From the left side, Hong Myung-Bo sent a cross to the middle, the ball skimming the back of Ruiz's head to a waiting Simon Elliott on the right flank.

Elliott's powerful one-timer was deflected by goalkeeper Scott Garlick to the center of the box, where an opportunistic Ruiz waited.

Ruiz's header bounded past Garlick and into the right corner of the net, setting off a wild celebration.

Finally, the Galaxy could exhale.

"The pressure grew as the schedule went on," Ruiz said. "It's a big relief because we finally got the win and now we can move on."

Ruiz scored a penalty kick in the closing minutes.

Ruiz had been taken down in the box by midfielder Pablo Mastroeni on a breakaway in the 90th minute and Ruiz's soft penalty kick went left while Garlick went right.

"I don't want to talk about just myself," said Ruiz, who has scored five of the Galaxy's seven goals. "We played together, together as a team for the first time.

"These are the moments that we need to remember and keep in our hearts."

The tight-playing Galaxy defense limited the Rapids (1-6-1) to seven shots, two on goal.

The Galaxy had 19 shots, 10 on goal. This after failing to get a shot on goal in last week's 1-0 loss at Colorado.

"I was fairly not busy, which is good," said goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who was making a homecoming of sorts, having played his freshman and sophomore years of college soccer at nearby Cal State Dominguez Hills.

"I feel like I didn't really play a game," he said. "I'll probably go for a run or just go take another look at the stadium."

It's a beautiful sight, especially with a victory after spending the first two months winless on the road.

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