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Galaxy Rekindles a Championship Fire

L.A. looks like MLS Cup winning team of last season in a 3-0 victory over Dallas in front of 18,165 at Home Depot Center.

June 29, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

File the obituary away for later use, the Galaxy is alive and well.

Having struggled for much of the season, and looking anything like Major League Soccer's champion of a season ago, Coach Sigi Schmid's team suddenly rediscovered itself on Saturday night, trouncing the Dallas Burn, 3-0, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 18,165 at the Home Depot Center.

Goals by Sasha Victorine, Chris Albright and Carlos Ruiz, who returned from a two-game suspension, were enough to put to rest the notion that the Galaxy (3-5-6) is a spent force.

The team still needs to reacquire its once formidable road form, but it is 3-0-1 at its new home and plays 10 of its next 12 games at Carson. In other words, the future looks a lot brighter.

"I'm excited, overjoyed, thrilled," Schmid said. "It's nice to finally see the Galaxy back."

On a night when no Galaxy player put a foot wrong, it was Albright who got it all right. He assisted on Victorine's opening goal and scored the second, slamming home a 60th-minute shot.

Two minutes later, Ruiz tucked away a penalty kick after Alex Pineda Chacon had been fouled by Dallas defender Ryan Suarez, and the Galaxy, leading by three goals, had nothing left to do but enjoy the last half hour.

Albright has scored three goals in his last two games, and Schmid explained the transformation. The forward, he said, had been told in no uncertain terms what was expected of him.

"One of the things we really talked about was that he needs to use his fitness, his athleticism, his ability to be a big body," Schmid said.

"You don't want to be like Ralph Sampson, you don't want to be a 7-foot-4 guy who wants to play like a point guard. You want to be a big body, and he was doing that today.

"He scored a great goal, he was on the end of crosses, he's going at people and he's using his strength and size. That's something that he has to bring to the game."

Albright had a different explanation, saying he had played with "a little more reckless abandon" and a lot more confidence.

"But soccer's funny," he said. "I'll go out and have those opportunities again and won't score. I've been lucky this week."

It was not luck that gave the Galaxy the shutout victory and dropped Dallas to 2-6-3.

"With all the injuries we've gone through and being on the road [for 10 of its 14 games], the team's happy to be at home," Schmid said. "All the things we've been talking about, trying to get better movement off the ball, getting people to be more aggressive, taking people on quicker, I think those things came about tonight.

"It could have been five or six goals. We weren't stagnant.

"Coaching would be easy if you knew when that magic moment hit and everything sunk in. Obviously, it's starting to sink in now."

The Burn managed three or four shots in the opening minutes before the Galaxy woke up to the fact that the game had actually started.

Once awake, Los Angeles responded, with Ruiz trying a bicycle kick that deflected over the crossbar off the shoulder of Alexi Lalas in the seventh minute. Then Alejandro Moreno, who started up front with Ruiz, took a shot on the turn in the 10th minute but directing it straight at Dallas goalkeeper D.J. Countess.

The pressure finally paid off 19 minutes 47 seconds into the match when Victorine scored his second goal of the season.

The move began with Chacon in the midfield steering the ball out wide to Moreno on the right. Moreno crossed it into the goal area, where Albright flicked a header across the face of the net to Victorine at the far post and the midfielder's shot went in off Countess' hands.

Cobi Jones clipped a shot off the underside of the crossbar a little later, but it was the second half before the Galaxy took full command of the game.

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