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Galaxy Sitting on Top of World

In Its Fourth MLS Final, Los Angeles Finally Earns First Championship: Galaxy 1, Revolution 0

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 21, 2002; Page D06

FOXBORO, Mass., Oct. 20 -- The Los Angeles Galaxy had been down this agonizing road before -- a Major League Soccer title game dragged into overtime, promising scoring opportunities having slipped away and a supposed inferior opponent gaining confidence by the minute. But today, unlike its previous sudden-death adventures with the league title at stake, the Galaxy produced a fantastic finish and, at long last, a first championship.

Carlos Ruiz, MLS's leading scorer and most valuable player, ended the Galaxy's postseason misery in the 113th minute, finishing a rapid counterattack with an eight-yard shot to secure a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution and silence a championship-record crowd of 61,316 at Gillette Stadium.

L.A.'s Carlos Ruiz leaps for a shot but is denied by New England goalkeeper Adion Brown and Carlos Llamosa during the Galaxy's MLS Cup win Sunday. Ruiz eventually scored the game-winner in overtime. (Elise Amendola - AP)

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The Galaxy (21-10-3) was making its fourth trip to the final in the league's seven-year history. In 1996, at the old Foxboro Stadium, D.C. United overcame a late two-goal deficit and won in overtime. Three years later, here again in Massachusetts, United thwarted Los Angeles, 2-0. And last year at Columbus, San Jose did the honors with a sudden-death strike.

"We're finally holding up the trophy after all these years," said midfielder Cobi Jones, one of two players who has been with the Galaxy since its inception. "You start to think, 'Is this going to go the way of the other three games?' But we just knew it was a matter of time before we were going to get one."

In typical Los Angeles style, the winning goal couldn't come without a harrowing sequence about 40 seconds earlier when New England reserve Winston Griffiths belted a 20-yard deflected shot off the crossbar -- the Revolution's only serious bid of the day.

The Galaxy responded quickly. From the center circle, reserve Chris Albright sent the ball down the right flank to Tyrone Marshall, who crossed to Ruiz in the penalty area. After one bounce, Ruiz volleyed with his left foot past committed goalkeeper Adin Brown and into the lower right corner, touching off a blue-and-gold festival in the north end of the stadium.

To that point, Ruiz, a 23-year-old Guatemalan forward in his first MLS season, had his troubles with Brown. His 81st-minute breakthrough hopped wide right, a 102nd-minute bid -- on a spectacular bicycle kick from 10 yards -- smacked Brown on the forehead, and a 110th-minute shot from behind the New England defense was pushed aside by the diving Brown.

"In any game, you're going to have opportunities, and you're going to miss some and you're going to get some," said Ruiz, who scored 24 goals in the regular season and eight in the playoffs. "The most important thing is that we created those opportunities. Lucky for me, I was able to capitalize and make a difference."

Despite the presence of Ruiz and New England's Taylor Twellman (23 goals), the match was played at a sluggish pace throughout regulation. Twellman, the former University of Maryland star who had overcome a sprained knee to return to the starting lineup, wasn't much of a factor. His college teammate, Galaxy defender Danny Califf, didn't give him much space in the box, and Los Angeles outside midfielder Sasha Victorine prevented the Revolution's assists leader, Steve Ralston, from crossing effectively.

"To be honest, it wasn't a classic game," said Revolution Coach Steve Nicol, who guided his club (15-16-4) to its first title game after inheriting the job in May. "There wasn't a great deal happening for both teams. We just canceled each other out."

Soccer Notes: The previous record for an MLS Cup was 57,431 in 1997, when United played Colorado at RFK Stadium. Today's turnout was the fifth-largest in MLS history and caused a six-mile traffic back-up on Route 1. . . . Chicago Fire Coach Bob Bradley, a former D.C. assistant, likely will be named coach of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars this week. Dallas Coach Mike Jeffries, a former Chicago assistant, and U.S. national team assistant Dave Sarachan would become the top candidates for the Fire job, sources said. . . . U.S. Coach Bruce Arena said he would name his 23-man roster (all MLS players) for the Nov. 17 friendly against El Salvador at RFK Stadium in about a week. . . . The Galaxy will play at Columbus on Thursday in the U.S. Open Cup final.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company