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MLS CUP Galaxy vs. New England

Tough Task Ahead for Galaxy

New England, eager to avenge a loss in the 2002 title game, is ready to throw everything it has at L.A.

November 10, 2005|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

It's not going to be easy. There's not a chance of that.

If the Galaxy is to win Major League Soccer's championship on Sunday in Frisco, Texas, it will have to overcome a New England Revolution squad that has earned its reputation as one of the toughest teams in the league.

"They bring it," Galaxy and U.S. national team defender Chris Albright said Wednesday at the Home Depot Center.

"They're kind of a reflection of their coach, I think, in the style that they play.

"I mean, they've got a Scottish guy [Coach Steve Nicol] who, when he played, was tough as nails. I think those guys feed off his energy and show that on the field. As talented as they are, they got a lot of wins this year with heart and with fight. They're a tough team."

The Revolution, which finished the regular season 17-7-8 compared to the Galaxy's 13-13-6, was beaten, 1-0, by Los Angeles in the 2002 MLS final on a Carlos Ruiz overtime goal, adding some incentive this time for New England.

Both 2005 regular-season games between the finalists ended in a 1-1 tie.

Nicol's roster is deep in every position, with the team built around five players from the U.S. national team pool: goalkeeper Matt Reis (formerly of the Galaxy), midfielder Clint Dempsey, winger Steve Ralston and forwards Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman.

There are also Grenada international Shalrie Joseph, one of the top defensive midfielders in MLS; defender Jay Heaps, a former Duke basketball player; playmaking midfielder Jose Cancela of Uruguay; two more former Galaxy players in defender Joe Franchino and midfielder Daniel Hernandez; two former Wake Forest standouts in defender Michael Parkhurst, the league's 2005 rookie of the year, and live-wire midfielder/defender James Riley . . . the list goes on.

Galaxy Coach Steve Sampson's assessment was given in shorthand Wednesday, as if he did not want to dwell too long on the challenge ahead.

"They're an outstanding team," he said, "very well balanced, very good goalkeeping, strong in the midfield; certainly, with Dempsey and Twellman and Noonan, capable of scoring goals.

"It's a team we have to play a very complete game against. They're very good at attacking from both sides of the field and down the center. They're good on dead balls. Deservedly so, they're in the final."

That said, the way Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones have been playing lately, the Galaxy is not going to Texas like a lamb chop to the barbecue.

"I think we have players who can take advantage of their back line," Sampson said. "Certainly, we have to be very intelligent in our approach to the game. We can't afford to make silly mistakes and unnecessary fouls."

The latter point is crucial since the final could be a physical affair.

Nicol, who starred for Liverpool when it was at its peak in the mid-1980s and for Scotland's national team, has taught the Revolution to give no quarter. The players battle for the ball all over the field, know what to do with it when they do gain possession and have the skill to get it done.

"I think we match up physically pretty well with them," Sampson said. "Our guys have improved dramatically defensively in the last month. Certainly, Joseph is a player in midfield who has to be dealt with very intelligently. Twellman is very explosive.

"But with Tyrone [Marshall] and Ugu [Ihemelu] in the middle of the back I think we've got guys who are very good athletes and who can stay with them."

One Galaxy player who has high regard for the Revolution is goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

"The camaraderie on that team is amazing," he said. "As a fan of MLS, New England is a team that I've been watching all year and saying, 'You know what? This is a great team. These guys have a great thing going.'

"So it's a matter of us really finding out what shape they take when they attack, how we need to play, what their weaknesses are, how we can get forward and yet remain very, very tight in the back, and hopefully we catch something.

"We matched up with them really well this year," Hartman added. "It really just comes down to this one game."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Cup comparison

The per-game averages of MLS Cup finalists New England and the Galaxy during the regular season:

*--* REVOLUTION GALAXY 1.7 Goals 1.4 1.2 Goals Allowed 1.4 12.5 Shots 12.7 6.3 Shots on Goal 5.7 5.6 Corner Kicks 4.3 13.8 Fouls Committed 14.0 14.0 Fouls Suffered 14.8

*--*

*--* LEADING SCORERS Galaxy: Landon Donovan (12 goals, 10 assists) Herculez Gomez (11 goals, 2 assists) Pete Vagenas (5 goals, 4 assists) Revolution: Taylor Twellman (17 goals, 7 assists) Clint Dempsey (10 goals, 9 assists) Pat Noonan (8 goals, 7 assists)

*--*

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