No matter what ails the Los Angeles Galaxy, the team now knows a cure: a game against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
For the third time in as many Major League Soccer games, the Galaxy defeated the MetroStars, this time 3-0, in front of 17,137 at the Rose Bowl.
Goals by Greg Vanney, Harut Karapetyan and Mauricio Cienfuegos on Sunday ended a four-game losing streak and did much to restore the Galaxy's shaken confidence.
"I think if we had lost five in a row, it would have been devastating for the team," Cobi Jones said. "I think it would have gone straight downhill from there."
For New York/New Jersey, the puzzle of figuring out how to defeat Los Angeles remains unsolved. The Galaxy defeated the MetroStars, 3-2, at the Rose Bowl in its season opener and, 4-0, at Giants Stadium last month.
"There's no jinx," said MetroStar goalkeeper Tony Meola. "They're a better team than we are. We have some individuals who certainly are better than them, but as far as a team goes, they're better."
The Galaxy improved to 13-4 overall and 8-1 at home not only because it showed more intensity and commitment than in recent games but also because of the way New York/New Jersey played. The MetroStars, who fell to 8-10, failed miserably in pressuring the Galaxy, allowing its players far too much room.
The result was that Cienfuegos and Jones and others were free to create scoring opportunities. For a change, the Galaxy capitalized on them.
"We like that," Galaxy Coach Lothar Osiander said of the MetroStars' approach. "When a team wants to play, we love that. We seem to do much better against teams that forget high pressure and try to play."
Osiander and Octavio Zambrano, the assistant coach, minced no words in a blistering, closed-door session with the players after the Galaxy's 5-2 loss at Dallas last Wednesday. Osiander declined to reveal what was said, but it apparently had the right effect.
"They got on the team," Jones said. "I think it was good. I think it was something that was needed because we haven't played well in like about the last 10 games. It's about time the coaches came through and let us have it. I think it woke us all up."
The Galaxy took the lead in the 22nd minute when Jose Vasquez took the ball into the right corner, then passed it back out to Jones, who crossed it into the goal area. With the MetroStars' defense nowhere to be seen, Vanney looped a header over Meola and into the net.
The second goal, in the 65th minute, came on an excellent, 20-yard shot by Karapetyan off a pass from Cienfuegos. Meola threw himself to his left and barely got a hand on the ball before it flashed into the roof of the net.
"It was a good shot," Karapetyan admitted afterward. "I've had opportunities the last couple of games, but they have either hit the post or gone wide. But this time I'm happy."
Cienfuegos closed the door on New York/New Jersey six minutes later when he scored from close range after Chris Armas had dodged and feinted his way through the MetroStars' defense before passing to Cienfuegos.
Meola thought Cienfuegos was offside, but the linesman's flag stayed down and the goal was allowed.
"I thought I was in line with the defenders [and therefore onside]," Cienfuegos said. "But the linesman had better position, and if he thought it was offside he would have called it."
Carlos Qeiroz, the MetroStars' coach, was not about to quibble about such lesser problems as the always-curious MLS officiating. His team lost, he said, because it was beaten.
"They played much better today than we played," he said. "They were more fresh, with a better attitude. We didn't work today. Our team today against L.A. played like L.A did against Dallas in the last match."
Well, perhaps not that badly, but there was little question that the Galaxy deserved the victory, goalkeeper David Kramer's first as a starter.