No Stars Shining in This Galaxy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I guess I'm going to have to lose 12 in a row before I win one again," a disconsolate Lothar Osiander said Sunday evening.

Guess so.

The Los Angeles Galaxy made it five consecutive losses Wednesday night when it was beaten, 2-0, by the Columbus Crew in front of 16,747 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

It was only the second time this season that the Galaxy (15-11) had been shut out.

A victory would have moved the team into a tie for first place in Major League Soccer's Western Conference and all but clinched a playoff spot. Instead, Osiander's team languishes in third place, with fourth creeping up fast.

The Crew, meanwhile, moved out of fifth and into fourth in the Eastern Conference, leaving the New England Revolution and its media star, Alexi Lalas, facing the possibility of missing the playoffs. The top four teams in each five-team conference qualify.

On Wednesday, it was two former UCLA Bruins who combined to frustrate Los Angeles--Crew defender Paul Caligiuri and goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

The 71st-minute goal scored by Columbus striker Brian McBride off a free kick by Robert Warzycha was merely the fork that proved this Galaxy turkey was done.

Once again, as it has in five of its last nine games, Los Angeles fell behind early. The Crew took the lead in the ninth minute on a goal by Caligiuri, the veteran U.S. national team defender from Diamond Bar. It was the 11th time this season that the Galaxy has yielded a goal in the first 15 minutes.

From then on, Friedel thwarted every Los Angeles attempt to even the score. The Crew (12-16) is unbeaten in five games since the U.S. national team's starting keeper joined it last month and has won six in a row.

That consecutive-victory mark is the second-best in MLS' brief history, behind only the Galaxy's 12-0 start to the season, a start that is now a distant memory.

The Galaxy is not a come-from-behind team. It has never won a game in which it trailed at the half, so Caligiuri's goal--on a header off a corner kick by Warzycha--was an omen of things to come.

The Galaxy had a couple of chances, but no luck. Jose Vasquez found the net on a pass from Guillermo Jara in the 12th minute, but referee Rueben Rodhas ruled that Vasquez was offside. In the final minute of the first half, Mauricio Cienfuegos volleyed a shot just over the crossbar.

Vasquez, who had been cautioned for tripping in the 53rd minute, received a second yellow card for the same offense in the 71st minute but inexplicably was not ejected.

"The wear and tear is starting to show," Osiander said. "You think you can put guys in for the injured ones and they'll do fine, but it obviously didn't happen this game. . . . One of these days we'll win one of these things."

Meanwhile, instead of flying to Paris today as he had hoped, Galaxy goalkeeper Jorge Campos will return to Los Angeles with the team to prepare for Sunday's now-even-more-important game against the San Jose Clash. Campos had been called up by Mexico's national team for a game against France in Paris on Saturday, but the Galaxy balked at releasing him.

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