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Ruiz Skips First Day of Camp

GALAXY REPORT

February 03, 2004|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

Mauricio Cienfuegos is gone.

So are Simon Elliott, Alexi Lalas, Diego Serna and Antonio Martinez.

The Galaxy can only hope that the bitter taste left by its stunning collapse in last season's Major League Soccer playoffs is out the door as well as the team, coming off the first losing season in franchise history, opened training camp for the 2004 season Monday at the Home Depot Center.

"It's the first day so everybody's trying to get rid of the jitters," said Coach Sigi Schmid, whose future with the club was in doubt after the playoff loss. "This may be the best group of young guys we've had since [2000]."

While Schmid was referring to draft picks Joseph Ngwenya, a forward from Zimbabwe; Josh Gardner, a midfielder from Cincinnati, and Ned Grabavoy, a midfielder from Indiana, it was the "unexcused" absence of forward Carlos Ruiz that spoke loudest.

Ruiz, who twice had loans to English Premier League teams fall apart this winter, was a no-show at the Galaxy's workout.

"I'm a little disappointed with Carlos not being here," General Manager Doug Hamilton said. "But none of this is a shock. His return is imminent. Carlos and I will have a meeting when he returns."

Hamilton, though, would not say why Ruiz remained in his native Guatemala.

"I'd rather not speculate on what's in his head," he said. "He'll stand in front of [the media] after he stands in front of me and in front of the team."

Cobi Jones and Ricky Lewis were the only other Galaxy players not at the first day of camp. Jones was sick and Lewis was with the United States' Olympic qualifying team in Mexico.

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The Galaxy has an international roster spot open and is expected to announce the signing of Austrian midfielder Andreas Herzog, 35, this week as well as forward Jovan Kirovski, 27. Second-year midfielder Memo Gonzalez, 18, hopes to assume the playmaking position vacated by the retired Cienfuegos.

"With the Austrian and Kirovski coming I do have to show Sigi that I want that number [10]," Gonzalez said. "With time I can show him what I can do."

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A preseason trip to Europe -- to France, Spain or Portugal -- is in the works for later this month as well as a home exhibition with Brazilian club Sao Paolo on June 5. The Galaxy hopes to play an MLS match in Las Vegas in 2005.

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