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Galaxy Goes Flat at Finish in 1-1 Tie

San Jose scores late in regular-season finale, but L.A. is upbeat about its playoff chances.

October 26, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — The fates seemed to be conspiring against the Galaxy from the start on Saturday -- the team bus having a flat tire and the defending Major League Soccer champions having to schlep to Spartan Stadium in a pair of hotel-supplied vans.

Yet while the Galaxy arrived on time for its regular-season finale against the San Jose Earthquakes, its defense fell asleep late, giving up an 80th-minute goal to set an MLS record by ending the season without a road win.

Still, the locker room of the fourth-place Galaxy (9-12-9 overall, 0-9-6 on the road) was anything but downcast after its 1-1 draw with the Western Conference champion Earthquakes (14-7-9) before a crowd of 16,282. The Galaxy, which set a team record for ties, had already proven its point in last week's 3-0 shellacking of San Jose at the Home Depot Center.

And as anyone associated with either team will tell you, nothing much matters until the home-and-home, aggregate goals playoff series involving the teams begins next Saturday in Carson.

"San Jose has been one of the best teams all year and we've probably been one of the worst teams all year," said Galaxy defender Danny Califf. "When it comes down to it, these two games show that we can play with them and we can beat them."

The Galaxy almost beat the suddenly punchless Earthquakes again Saturday night and probably should have, considering they were resting starters Landon Donovan and Jeff Agoos.

Alejandro Moreno gave the Galaxy a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute.

Cobi Jones, who had sat out the previous two matches with a sore right hip, sent a high pass into the center from the right side. Moreno, camped out at the top of the eight-yard box, out-jumped San Jose defender Brian Mullan to softly head the ball into the right corner of the goal, past the Earthquakes' late-diving goalkeeper Pat Onstad.

It was Moreno's sixth goal of the season.

Nursing the lead, Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid pulled forward Carlos Ruiz to start the second half -- an injury-saving move, he said -- and Ruiz's season ended with 15 goals, tying him with New England's Taylor Twellman for the league lead (Chicago's Ante Razov has 14 goals and plays today at Columbus).

San Jose, which seems spooked by Ruiz anytime he touches the ball, took advantage of his absence and tied the score.

Rookie forward Jamil Walker, who had entered as a replacement for Ian Russell in the 69th minute, got behind the crossed-up Galaxy defense and his quick shot bounded off goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and crossed the line for his fourth goal of the season.

A sense of relief enveloped the San Jose bench as the goal ended a 401-minute scoreless drought for the Earthquakes.

"There's a little disappointment in giving up the goal but I also feel very confident that if Carlos had been in there in the second half they wouldn't have gotten it," Schmid said.

What about that dubious road record?

"Doesn't matter," he said. "It doesn't matter. All that matters is that we win the road games in the playoffs. The rest doesn't matter. Our team by now has a lot of confidence."

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