Galaxy Gets Timely Boost to Next Round

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Galaxy's UCLA connection came through when it mattered.

After falling to a goal by a former Bruin, Tayte Ianni, in the first game of its best-of-three playoff series against the San Jose Clash, the Galaxy clinched the series Wednesday night, thanks to the strong play of another Westwood graduate.

No, it wasn't Cobi Jones, but rather Ante Razov, who helped power a 2-0 victory over the Clash in front of 30,231 at the Rose Bowl. The win put the Galaxy into Major League Soccer's Western Conference finals, where the Kansas City Wiz awaits.

Razov, a 22-year-old forward acquired in the collegiate draft, has not played much this season but came through when it mattered. He assisted on one goal and helped create another.

"He's not a bad player," Clash Coach Laurie Calloway said. "They [the Galaxy] needed a bit of firepower because they've had trouble scoring against us the last two games, and he's a lively player."

Galaxy Coach Lothar Osiander was more restrained in his evaluation.

"Razov was OK," Osiander said. "He needs a little time [to gain experience]. "I think he's got outstanding speed and he's got great mobility. He's got good movement off the ball, which [teammate Eduardo] Hurtado doesn't have. But he's a young kid. He needs to be seasoned for a few years."

The Hurtado-Razov combination was involved in both Galaxy goals, which came within four minutes of each other late in the first half.

The second goal came on a dubious penalty kick decision by referee Esse Baharmast that had the Clash fuming. Overall, however, the Galaxy deserved the victory, even though Osiander was unhappy with the team's performance.

"I wasn't pleased with the way we played, but I was pleased with the result," he said.

The Galaxy controlled play in the first 15 minutes, showing more attacking spirit than it has in some time. Hurtado and Razov, the twin strikers up front, both forced San Jose goalkeeper Dave Salzwedel into good saves with testing shots from long range.

But the closest the Galaxy came to scoring was in the 14th minute when Clash defender Ianni was called for a foul on Razov. Mauricio Cienfuegos tapped the resulting free kick into the path of Jones, whose blistering shot from 25 yards thundered against the underside of the crossbar before rebounding clear.

San Jose's only real scoring chance came when Jorge Rodas sent a fierce shot toward the lower left corner of the Galaxy net that Jorge Campos managed to push around the goal post for a corner kick. Other than that, the Clash showed little in the enforced absence of forward Eric Wynalda, who had been ejected from Sunday's 2-0 Galaxy win in Game 2.

The breakthrough for the Galaxy came in the 31st minute. Razov sent a crossing pass from the left to Hurtado, who had momentarily escaped his shadow, Clash captain John Doyle. Salzwedel rushed out to block Hurtado's shot, but the Ecuador national team striker calmly chipped the ball past him for his second goal of the playoffs and 23rd of the season.

The lead became 2-0 less than four minutes later when Hurtado sent the ball to Razov, who passed it into the path of Jones, sprinting into the penalty area. San Jose's Ben Iroha leaned a little too hard into the Galaxy's fastest player, sending him sprawling. Referee Baharmast did not hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot.

The Clash players were furious, insisting that no foul had been committed, that Iroha had played the ball before making contact with Jones.

"I'm told them I don't want to see the replay because I might be a little angry," Calloway said. "If it was a foul, why wasn't it a red card [as called for in the rules]?"

Osiander too was in two minds about the decision.

"I thought it might have been [a penalty], but I wasn't at all sure," he said. "I'll have to see the replay."

The replay will show Cienfuegos blasting the penalty kick into the roof of the net and, figuratively speaking, shooting the Galaxy into the Western Conference finals against the Wiz.

Stadium availability and television arrangements were still being checked Wednesday night, so the announcement on dates for the series will not be made until today.

"The earliest we would play would be next Wednesday," said Danny Villanueva, the Galaxy's general manager.

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