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Vagenas not about to mope over playing time

May 03, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

There are players in every sport who mope and moan when suddenly, and for no clear reason, they find themselves on the bench.

Peter Vagenas is not one of them.

Now in his ninth Major League Soccer season and the Galaxy's longest-serving player, Vagenas, 30, regards his move from starter to substitute under Coach Ruud Gullit as only a temporary aberration.

He will, he said, be back. It might not be tonight against Real Salt Lake in Utah, but he will be back.

"A lot of people say this, but I truly believe it," Vagenas said, "you've got to always put the team first. Just like everybody else I want to be out there and that doesn't change, but at the same time it's a long season and anything can happen."

Vagenas is as local as it gets for a Galaxy player, being from Pasadena and having played at UCLA. Coming into this season, he had played 188 regular-season and playoff games since joining the Galaxy in 2000, and had scored 15 goals and assisted on 24 others, not bad numbers for a defensive midfielder.

But in the Galaxy's five games so far in 2008, he has started only one and played a total of only 58 minutes as Gullit has tinkered with a variety of players, new and old, in midfield. "It's absolutely frustrating, but it would be frustrating for anybody, top of the roster to the bottom," Vagenas said. "All you can do is come out and train hard and leave it at that."

Vagenas said the coaching staff had not given any reason for his change of fortune.

"They have to do what they think is best," Vagenas said. "We want this team to do well. My confidence in myself won't change, regardless of what I'm asked to do, because I think once that goes you're in trouble. I don't think there's a better player in that position in this league than myself."

It did not help when the Galaxy last month traded a future second-round draft pick to the New England Revolution for Joe Franchino, 31, who plays the same position as Vagenas.

The two were Galaxy teammates in 2000 before Franchino was traded to the Revolution. Now Franchino is the starting defensive midfielder.

"The one thing I've never taken for granted is my job," Vagenas said. "I come out here every day and whether I'm playing 90 minutes or not playing at all, I give it my all in practice. Then the decision is left up to people greater than myself."

TONIGHT

at Real Salt Lake, 6 PDT, FSN West

Site --Rice Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City.

Radio -- 1150, 1330.

Records --Galaxy 2-2-1, Real Salt Lake 1-3-1.

Update --Both teams are coming off big victories. The Galaxy defeated Chivas USA, 5-2, in MLS play and Real Salt Lake routed the San Jose Earthquakes, 4-0, in the U.S. Open Cup.

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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