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How Sweet It Is for Galaxy, but Not for Mutiny’s Swede

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was after the fifth goal had flashed past him into the back of the Tampa Bay Mutiny net Saturday night that Thomas Ravelli finally lost his Swedish cool.

He raged at his defenders. He threw his arms up in disgust. He stalked around his goal area with an angry scowl. In short, he wasn’t happy.

And who could blame him?

By routing the Mutiny, 5-1, in front of 23,121 at the Rose Bowl, the Galaxy not only improved to a Major League Soccer-best 6-0, it dropped Tampa Bay to a league-worst 1-5.

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This is not the sort of thing Sweden’s World Cup ’94 goalkeeper crossed the Atlantic to endure. But it could get worse before it gets better. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Tampa Bay is a mediocre team.

That fact likely will cost Coach John Kowalski his job in the very near future. Whether his assistant, former Galaxy coach Lothar Osiander, really wants to inherit this ragtag bunch is problematic.

It very easily could have been an even more lopsided loss. Ravelli made several fine saves in the second half after the Mutiny had been reduced to 10 men by the red card referee Kevin Terry gave defender Mike Duhaney in the 49th minute.

Duhaney was judged to have brought Cobi Jones down with an illegal tackle from behind. It was a questionable call, but Terry made dubious decisions all night.

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Less than a minute later, for instance, he awarded the Galaxy a penalty kick when midfielder Alan Prampin clattered into Mauricio Cienfuegos and the Salvadoran star went down like a sack of coffee beans.

Cienfuegos bounced back up quickly enough to take the kick, however, beating Ravelli to increase Los Angeles’ lead to 3-1 and effectively end any hope of a Tampa Bay comeback.

The Galaxy wasted little time in showing the Mutiny the vast talent gap between the teams. The game was barely three minutes old when Welton hammered in a pass from Jones to make it 1-0.

It was the fourth goal of the season for the Brazilian striker, who led the team with 11 goals last season.

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Even though the Galaxy was dominating play, Tampa bay snatched a surprise equalizer in the 26th minute when Steve Ralston passed to Roy Lassiter, who knocked it back to him and Ralston sent a low shot beyond Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman’s reach.

After that slight setback, the Galaxy put the game out of reach.

Guatemalan midfielder Martin Machon restored Los Angeles’ lead in the 38th minute when he beat Ravelli from close range off a pass from Ezra Hendrickson, whose elbow had flattened Prampin, a foul unseen by referee Terry.

Cienfuegos’ penalty kick early in the second half put the outcome beyond doubt and all that was left was for Jones to net his team-high fifth goal in the 68th minute, with Welton collecting his second of the night three minutes later.

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That would have been the end of it, but Terry saw fit to toss Galaxy midfielder Danny Pena out of the game in the dying minutes after Pena had clipped the heels of Tampa Bay’s Lassiter.

It means Pena will sit out the next game, against the Wizards in Kansas City on Wednesday night.

Of course, the way the Galaxy is playing right now, that might not make much difference. Saturday’s victory means the team has won 12 regular-season games in a row over two seasons, tying its league record set in 1996 when it won the first 12 games in team history.

And as for Tampa Bay?

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“Once we lost composure, we fell apart,” Kowalski said. “I feel there were certain turning points in the game . . . the red card [on Duhaney], for one, and the penalty kick was definitely a factor.

“We need to go back to the drawing board.”

The Galaxy doesn’t need to make any revisions.

“When we’re playing as well as we’re playing, we make luck happen,” Machon said.

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