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Gullit won't play numbers game

Galaxy coach says statistics say little about his team, or the sport of soccer.

April 13, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

American sports fans have an obsession with statistics, Galaxy Coach Ruud Gullit believes, but he argues that numbers have little to do with the reality of what happens on a soccer field.

So it does not matter at this point in the Major League Soccer season that the Galaxy is 1-1-0, or that David Beckham and Landon Donovan each have one goal, or that Los Angeles will be trying to win its second in a row, against Toronto FC at the Home Depot Center at noon today.

"It's not so much about statistics," the Dutch coach said. "Soccer is not about that. I know that in America everything is about statistics. But sometimes a player can have not so many touches, but the touches that he has have to be vital, and that is important."

Gullit figures to start the same 11 players who beat San Jose, 2-0, in the second game.

Steve Cronin will be in the nets, behind a back line of Chris Klein, Sean Franklin, Greg Vanney and Mike Randolph. Beckham will be on the right of midfield, with Ely Allen on the left and Alvaro Pires and Brandon McDonald in the center. The two forwards will be Donovan and Alan Gordon.

Franklin, Allen and McDonald are rookies, but Gullit said they have earned their place by "playing like men."

"Everybody asks me always about Landon or about David," he said, "but I think [the three rookies] did an excellent job. I'm very happy with the way they performed. Of course, they're rookies and there will be moments when they will be a little bit down [less effective], but at least we now know what they can and what they can't do."

With Carlos Ruiz sidelined by the injury he sustained in the Galaxy's 4-0 opening loss to the Rapids in Colorado, the burden for creating or scoring the goals will again fall to Beckham and Donovan. Beckham said the two are developing a good understanding on the field.

"It's easy to play with a player like Landon," he said. "He's a very quick player, a very good player. He knows how to play the game. He makes my game easy for me because he runs into positions where he knows that I can play the ball. So it's great to play for him."

Toronto FC, meanwhile, has started its second MLS season with a new coach, John Carver, and with consecutive road losses to the Columbus Crew and D.C. United.

Carver this week strengthened the team, at least on paper, by signing Honduran national team midfielder Amado Guevara, the league's MVP in 2004, as well as 25-year-old English midfielder Rohan Ricketts, a one-time youth player for Arsenal.

"We are a better team than we showed in the 4-1 loss that we had at D.C. last week," said defender Tyrone Marshall, the former Galaxy player who was traded to Toronto last season for forward Edson Buddle.

Marshall also said on Toronto's website that there were ways of containing Donovan.

"He hates the physical game," Marshall said. "I played against him when he was with San Jose and I know him from being on his team. If you're aggressive with him and get on top of him, I don't think he likes that. Most of the really good players don't like that. You have to be tight with him and get him off his game a little bit."

TODAY

vs Toronto, noon,

Telefutura, FSN West (4:30)

Site -- Home Depot Center

Radio -- 1150, 1220 (Spanish)

Records -- Galaxy 1-1-0; Toronto 0-2-0

Update -- The Galaxy has played Toronto only twice before, tying, 0-0, in Canada and winning, 2-1, in Carson last season.

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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