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Galaxy Does It in Rapid-Fire

Gomez scores twice and L.A. beats Colorado, 4-1, looking for the first time this season like a team capable of earning a second MLS title.

September 11, 2005|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

It has taken 27 games, but on Saturday night, the Galaxy finally showed signs of becoming a team capable of winning a second Major League Soccer championship.

All too often this season, just the opposite has been true.

By the time the crowd filed out of the Home Depot Center, the Colorado Rapids had been comprehensively beaten, 4-1, the Galaxy goals coming courtesy of Herculez Gomez, who scored twice, Landon Donovan and -- almost amazingly -- Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez.

Ramirez had not scored all season, and the Guatemalan international midfielder had begun to think he was jinxed. But he tucked away an 87th-minute penalty kick to end his scoring drought and leave his teammates beaming.

"They celebrated his goal more than they did the victory," Coach Steve Sampson said.

Was Gomez miffed at being denied a chance at a hat trick?

"No, no, I was trying to get Joseph [Ngwenya] to take it," Gomez said of the penalty kick, awarded after Ngwenya had been tripped by midfielder Eric Denton.

"But I'm happy for Pando. He deserves it. He's had one of those years. He works so hard. He does all of those little things a lot of people don't notice. I was so happy for him when he scored."

The goal capped an impressive outing for the Galaxy (11-11-5), and the victory, combined with FC Dallas' loss, moved the team into second place in the Western Conference. Colorado (9-12-4) remained fourth but is virtually assured a playoff spot.

"It felt a lot different," Gomez said of the Galaxy's play. "It felt fluid. It felt as if we were just flowing. Everybody knew what each other was supposed to do. The ball was moving a lot faster."

The match started off at a crackling pace, with the Galaxy clearly intent on putting the Rapids away early.

Barely six minutes in, Gomez gave the home team the lead with his eighth goal of the season. Peter Vagenas passed the ball to Gomez in the penalty area, where defender Hunter Freeman stripped him off it only to see Gomez steal it back.

The forward's rising shot from 10 yards beat goalkeeper Joe Cannon and slapped into the roof of the net at 6 minutes 3 seconds.

It was the earliest goal of the season for the Galaxy.

Matters got worse for Colorado in the 21st minute when defender Nat Borchers, who had picked up a yellow card in the fifth minute, knocked Gomez to the ground just outside the area, got a second yellow and was ejected.

Playing a man short for the remaining 70 minutes, the Rapids had no chance.

The Galaxy scored perhaps its goal of the season in the 24th minute when a superb no-look pass by Chris Albright sprang Cobi Jones on the right wing.

A pinpoint cross by Jones into the area was met by Donovan, who leaped between two defenders to head it powerfully into the net.

Three minutes into the second half, Colorado cut the lead in half.

A cross from the right by Terry Cooke was headed away by Jones, but only as far as Kyle Beckerman, whose goal-bound shot deflected off Vagenas but still found the net.

Gomez restored the two-goal lead in the 66th minute, taking an excellent through pass from Ned Grabavoy before sticking the ball past Cannon.

Gomez then strolled over to the corner flag, stripped off his jersey, draped over it over the stick and posed as if waiting for his picture to be taken.

Referee Brian Hall was not amused and gave him a yellow card.

An even more peculiar incident ended the evening's entertainment.

Ngwenya was tripped by Denton, Hall pointed the spot and Ramirez stepped up to take the penalty kick. His shot hit the left post and then goalkeeper Cannon's back before going in.

It was that sort of night.

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