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Galaxy’s New Fickle Drama Starring Two Former Bruins

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Six goals at one end and five at the other.

A brilliant, high-speed offense playing entertaining, fast-break soccer and scoring with apparent ease.

A somewhat slow and definitely porous defense backed by a goalkeeper not at all sure he is ready for prime time.

That has been the Jekyll and Hyde tale of the Galaxy so far this Major League Soccer season. Two games, two victories but two very different personalities.

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And two former UCLA Bruins are the lead characters. Winger Cobi Jones is playing Dr. Jekyll to goalkeeper Kevin Hartman’s Mr. Hyde.

Jones had three assists in a 4-3 shootout victory over the San Jose Clash and two goals as the Galaxy defeated the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, 3-2. That made him the league’s player of the month for March.

Hartman watched five shots flash past him--well, OK, some of them merely rolled--in the two games.

“These are the pitfalls you experience when you have a young goalkeeper on the field,” Coach Octavio Zambrano said. “I have had a heart-to-heart talk with Kevin and tried to make him understand that this game is not about what you did two games ago or 10 minutes ago, it’s about what you just did.

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“He now understands that he needs to go out there and be confident within himself and be able to transmit that confidence to the rest of the team. Once he learns the trade a little bit more and what that position entails, I think our defense will solidify.

“For goalkeepers, a big part of the game is the mental part. I think Kevin has the physical tools, the reaction and the agility, to be a good goalkeeper, but he needs to understand that there is more to the game than just that.”

Hartman is 23 and learning. Jones is 27 and showing that he has learned well.

“I think we are experiencing a great time, not only with Cobi but with [forward] Welton as well,” Zambrano said. “When they are at the top of their game, it’s tough to stop them.

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“Cobi is going through a great time in his career. He’s excited about the World Cup, he’s excited about a lot of things, and he’s showing it on the field.”

The key to the Galaxy’s offensive success, Zambrano said, is as much a matter of attitude as ability.

“We have the speed in the right places, and we have the mentality to go forward and really go after the opponent,” he said. “It’s our philosophy and has been from Day 1.”

Tonight, the Galaxy will be on the road for the first time this season when it plays the Colorado Rapids in Denver. The game will not mark the debut of midfielder Wellington Sanchez, who was acquired from the MetroStars for forward Eduardo Hurtado on Thursday because Sanchez will not arrive in Los Angeles until Sunday.

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Sanchez, 23, was to have taken Mauricio Cienfuegos’ place as the Galaxy playmaker because Cienfuegos remains sidelined with a bulging disk in his back.

“It’s not a [serious] thing, but we’re proceeding delicately with him because these type of injuries, if you don’t take care of them properly, they tend to become really bad injuries,” Zambrano said. “It’s the kind of thing that nags you all year long.

“We want to be sure he is 100% healthy before he comes back.”

Forward Jose Vasquez is likely to start in place of Hurtado, but Jones is the player the Rapids must contain, while Hartman tries to hold Colorado in check at the other end.

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