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Heady Victory for Galaxy

L.A. gets late goals on headers from Ngwenya and Albright to hand Chicago a 3-2 loss.

June 13, 2004|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

In 2002, the Galaxy swept the Chicago Fire in four Major League Soccer games.

Last season, the Fire returned the favor by beating the Galaxy in three out of three matches.

So when Chicago took a 2-1 lead late in Saturday afternoon's game at the Home Depot Center, the Galaxy had every reason to be apprehensive.

It was then that Joseph Ngwenya and Chris Albright took charge, scoring in the 81st minute and almost three minutes into injury time, respectively, as the Galaxy edged the Fire, 3-2, in front of an announced crowd of 23,358.

Albright's game-winner was a matter of desperation, he said, since it had been his foul on midfielder Justin Mapp that produced the penalty kick that allowed Chicago to take the lead.

"It was a case at the end of the game that I knew I'd taken Mapp down for the PK," Albright said. "I couldn't get out of my own way. I had to try to get some redemption."

He did, rising to a cross from Sasha Victorine and powering a downward header past Fire goalkeeper Henry Ring and into the back of the net.

Twelve minutes earlier, rookie Ngwenya had scored in almost identical fashion off a cross from Albright, who raced down the right wing and got in behind the Fire defense before sending the ball across.

Those two goals canceled out the two scored by Chicago striker Ante Razov, who was not at all happy about it.

"We just did a poor job of keeping the ball and killing the game," he said. "When you're up, 2-1, on the road in the 70th minute ... our passing was very poor at the end of the game. We just didn't manage it well. That's the bottom line.

"We knew they were the home team and they were going to come at us, but we just couldn't string two, three passes together at all, so we didn't help our cause."

Each team was missing a handful of starters because of injuries and national team call-ups, but the game did not suffer as a result.

The officiating, however, seemed to be another matter.

Both Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid and Fire Coach Dave Sarachan frequently found themselves up off the bench, gesticulating and yelling at referee Hector Tobon, who called 36 fouls in all, 20 of them against the Galaxy, and yellow-carded four players.

"There were some interesting situations occurring on the field, interesting calls were being made," Schmid said. "I don't know if it benefited one side or the other. It was strange."

After Austrian international Andreas Herzog had given the Galaxy the lead in the 10th minute on a blistering 20-yard shot off a pass from Ngwenya, Razov tied it in the 28th minute when four Galaxy defenders failed to close in on him and he beat goalkeeper Kevin Hartman from 17 yards.

Razov then gave Chicago (4-3-4) the lead in the 67th minute, scoring on the penalty kick after Albright had knocked down Mapp as the midfielder charged into the area.

The Galaxy (6-3-3) continued to chase the game and in the end was rewarded.

"We said at halftime if we made them drop their heads ... we could get at them, we could run at them and we could create some spaces," Schmid said.

"Last year was their year and 2002 was our year. It's always been a very good rivalry. It's always been intensely competitive between the two teams. A lot of the players know each other through national team experiences. So it's always an intense game.

"But we think the even years are our years."

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