Galaxy Finally Comes Down to Earth, 2-1

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Galaxy made a mess of everything it touched Sunday, beginning with the game against the Colorado Rapids at Mile High Stadium, and ending with its perfect record.

Playing against a team it defeated soundly Wednesday, and on a large field that fit its style, the Galaxy let the physical Rapids turn the Major League Soccer game into a rugby scrum, and lost, 2-1, before 15,711.

It was the first loss of the season for Los Angeles (12-1), and it came at the hands of the Rapids, who boast the worst record in the Western Conference (6-9).

"You get to a certain point and you think teams are going to roll over for you," Galaxy defender Dan Calichman said. "Well they didn't. They played great, and we were terrible."

The Galaxy got beat, but first got fooled. The Rapids played for the long ball and crowded the middle of the field, and the usually swift Galaxy thought it could win doing the same.

"We tried to slow it down, but that backfired," Galaxy Coach Lothar Osiander said. "And in the second half, something didn't click."

Instead of attacking from the outside, as it did during a 3-1 victory Wednesday, the Galaxy had strikers Cobi Jones and Eduardo Hurtado stuffed inside near midfield battling for balls in the air. That all but eliminated the effectiveness of playmaker Mauricio Cienfuegos, who, with his space flooded, looked as if he were merely trying not to get stepped on.

"You try to play wide but their system is to send into the middle and battle," Calichman said. "They dragged us into that until the very end."

The Galaxy managed only one shot on goal during the first half and didn't get its second until the 65th minute when Greg Vanney hit the post from 30 yards out. The Rapids totaled two shots in the first 45 minutes, but they included Roy Wegerle's goal in the 35th minute.

The assist goes, unofficially, to Galaxy defender Manny Motajo, who tried to pass back to goaltender Jorge Campos when he was being challenged on the left side. Instead, Motajo put the ball at Wegerle's feet 15 yards from the goal with only a stunned Campos left to beat. Wegerle easily pushed a shot past Campos and into the right corner of the goal.

The Rapids scored again in the 56th minute when the Galaxy gave up the ball during an attack, and Wegerle right-footed a pass to Shaun Bartlett, who cut in behind Robin Fraser.

"We gave away two goals," Osiander said. "The first on a mental error, and the second on an obvious defensive mistake."

Only in the game's final 20 minutes did the Galaxy resemble its old, undefeated self, but still missed chance after chance.

"I had some chances. We all did toward the end," Galaxy defender Mark Semioli said.

Brad Wilson scored on one of those chances in the 78th minute. Cienfuegos dribbled to the left of the goal box, faked three passes and three defenders before pushing the ball though to Wilson, who punched a shot past Colorado goalkeeper Chris Woods for a 2-1 score.

But that was it, and even moving Campos up to striker for the final 14 minutes couldn't spark the offense further, and couldn't sort the mess the Galaxy had already made.

"We have our style of play, and they have theirs," Colorado midfielder Felipe Rodriguez said. "For them to say that we made them play our style is another way of saying they didn't do their job."

Galaxy Notes

Galaxy defender Dan Calichman was added to the Western Conference all-star team. All additions will be announced today. New York/New Jersey's Roberto Donadoni is believed to be one of the players added to the Eastern Conference team. . . . Jose Vasquez played all of the first half after spending six weeks on injured reserve because of a broken foot.

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