Galaxy's Title Bid Dissolves in Wane : In End, They Were All Drummed Out

Where was the drumbeat? You kept listening for the drumbeat.

Darkness was rolling over Foxboro Stadium in cold, rainy gusts. The Galaxy was clinging to a one-goal lead, and wet D.C. United jerseys, and both were slipping away.

Jorge Campos shivered. Jorge Salcedo limped. Cobi Jones buried his hands in his soggy strings of hair and stared into the mud.

Where was the drumbeat?

It was there last summer, throughout the Galaxy's 12-0 start, surrounding the players from the far reaches of the Rose Bowl, some fans' constant pounding that somehow reached inside, summoned strength.

It was there last month, after they had lost the first game of their first playoff series in San Jose. They collected themselves, won four consecutive playoff games and two series, and went into Sunday's MLS championship game favored to give Los Angeles its first pro sports championship in eight years.

The Foxboro Stadium crowd booed the Galaxy players, the windy rainstorm freaked out their goalkeeper, and yet they scored in the first five minutes, scored again in the first 11 minutes of the second half, led, 2-0, with 17:32 remaining.

Seven months of pounding, less than a half-hour from a title.

"You figured, 20 minutes left, why not?" said Chris Armas. "I thought we were going to win. I just felt it."

And then . . . "The impossible happened," said Ante Razov.

They lost their rhythm. They lost their nerve. They lost their heart.

Where was the drumbeat?

D.C. United scored three goals in 21 minutes, and suddenly the Galaxy had lost more than a championship.

It had lost an entire season, drowned in a puddle, disappeared into the mud, dissolved in the mound of ice that one angry player dumped on the locker room floor.

"The bad thing about this is, nobody is going to remember anything about the team this year," said Jones, his eyes red.

A season lost on three goals on three set plays, the ball stopped, the players allowed to get into formation.

Not three chance plays decided by athletic superiority. Not luck.

This was a basketball team losing on three out-of-bounds plays, a baseball team losing on three hit-and-runs.

After slipping and skating over D.C. United for nearly two hours, the Galaxy was beaten when both teams were standing still.

Where was the drumbeat?

"Three plays, three mistakes by guys who didn't do the job," Salcedo said.

In the 73rd minute of the 90-minute game, Eduardo Hurtado mistimed his jump on a free kick, and Tony Sanneh hit the ball with his head.

In the 82nd minute, Campos didn't knock the ball away from the goal in a safe direction, and Shawn Medved hit it with his foot.

In the 94th minute, in overtime, Curt Onalfo didn't mark his man, and Eddie Pope ended the game with his head.

While the champions rushed together in a dancing, singing circle, the Galaxy behaved like schoolboys who just split their pants on the playground.

All but one rushed off the field, too consumed in anger and embarrassment to properly congratulate the winners.

The one who stayed, Mark Semioli, sat in front of the goal in disbelief for several minutes, listening to the empty roar of the crowd and the wind.

"All week we talked about these set plays, how to mark our men," he said. "In those plays, every guy has to stand up his matchup. Not all of our guys stood up."

Where was the drumbeat?

It could have been on the sideline in Dan Calichman, one of their top defenders who was suspended for this game after being assessed three yellow cards in the playoffs.

Stopping opponents on set plays is what he does best. After Alexi Lalas, who performed a mean national anthem with his guitar, Calichman would have been the most famous redhead in the place.

It could have been on the sideline in Salcedo, who could hardly walk because of a groin pull when he removed himself in the 77th minute for . . . you guessed it, Onalfo.

Or it could have been lost in the mind of Campos, who hates this weather, and not only because the poncho-covered crowd was more colorful than him.

When the Galaxy needed him most, when Los Angeles required a fearless and inspirational presence amid the United's reckless late attack, Jorge Campos was a brightly decorated stiff.

"If the weather was different, for me, this game would have been different," Campos said. "But I will not take full responsibility."

Where was the drumbeat?

They lost it so quickly, one must now wonder whether they ever really had it. The Galaxy, perhaps, is just that. A vast expanse of pretty objects with no real center.

"It was like we were disoriented out there," Jones said.

In the last several years, Los Angeles has heard the same thing from the Dodgers, the Kings, the Lakers and the Angels.

"And we thought we'd be different," the Galaxy's Robin Fraser said. "We thought we'd be that first team in a long time to bring home a championship to all the Los Angeles people."

Who this morning are still listening for the drumbeat.

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