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Flamboyant Campos Is Sent Packing by Galaxy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jorge Campos, the colorful and extroverted goalkeeper who helped put the Los Angeles Galaxy on the local sporting map, no longer is a member of the Major League Soccer team.

Campos and midfielder Chris Armas were traded to the Chicago Fire in a five-player swap, the Galaxy announced Tuesday.

In return for the former Mexican national team goalkeeper and one of the most promising young American players, the Galaxy will receive three players, including two it lost to Chicago in the MLS expansion draft last fall--midfielder/defender Danny Pena and former UCLA goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

More significantly, the Fire also gave up one of the international marquee players it was to have been assigned by the league. The Galaxy is expected to use the pick to acquire a top striker to play alongside Ecuador’s Eduardo Hurtado.

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One of the names prominently mentioned has been Mexican national team forward Carlos Hermosillo, but the San Jose Clash apparently is ahead of the Galaxy in the race to sign him.

Another possibility is Raul Diaz Arce, the Salvadoran forward who has helped Washington D.C. United win two consecutive league titles. That is a longshot, however, since a D.C. trade with the New England Revolution appears in the works.

A more likely scenario is that a South American striker will be acquired. Galaxy Coach Octavio Zambrano has spent a good portion of the off-season scouting players in his native Ecuador.

Campos, along with Hurtado, U.S. winger Cobi Jones and Salvadoran playmaker Mauricio Cienfuegos, have been the four players who have given the Galaxy its identity during the team’s two-year history.

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The goalkeeper, with a penchant for outrageously colored uniforms and unpredictable behavior in the nets, was a crowd favorite at the Rose Bowl and was often described by former Galaxy coach Lothar Osiander as the team’s “circus act.”

One favorite trick of his was to race far out of the nets, sometimes as far as the halfway line, before passing the ball to a teammate and racing back.

Galaxy fans will also remember the bizarre ceremonies when he would be called on to fill in as a forward if the Galaxy was trailing late in a game. He would run over to the sideline, pull off his fluorescent lime or yellow or orange goalkeeper jersey to reveal the No. 9 Galaxy jersey he always wore beneath it.

For all his antics, the Acapulco-born Campos is a more-than-competent keeper, and it was his play that was largely responsible for the Galaxy reaching the MLS championship game in its inaugural season.

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But 1997 was a different matter. The combination of a nagging knee injury, the loss of his position on the Mexican national team and various financial and personal considerations caused him to consider abandoning the league.

By the end of the season, he was talking openly about the possibility of leaving.

Naturally, MLS did not want to lose one of its most marketable personalities, and negotiations to keep him to his four-year contract had been under way for several weeks.

Complicating matters was the fact that Campos and Jones were the only two Galaxy players with what Danny Villanueva, the Galaxy’s president and general manager, described as “iron-clad no-trade clauses” in their contracts.

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In other words, if Campos did not want to go to another team, no one could have made him.

Finally, after meeting with Campos in Mexico last week, Sunil Gulati, the MLS deputy commissioner, was able to persuade him to return to the league and to accept a trade to Chicago.

“Jorge has been an outstanding player for us,” Villanueva said Tuesday. “As a new team in a new league, we were trying to find our way, and he brought a lot of security to us in the back.

“I know that Chicago is looking at [him playing] a very similar role, a steady, stabilizing role in the back.

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“He’s an invaluable asset to this league. He’s an outstanding player, and I will be forever grateful to him for the two years he was here.”

Villanueva called the trade “a strategic move,” explaining that he felt that an American player such as Hartman could hold down the goalkeeper position, thereby freeing the team to use all five of its foreign players in attacking positions.

In addition to Hurtado and Cienfuegos, the Galaxy also features Brazilian forward Welton and Guatemalan midfielder Martin Machon.

Campos was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but Chicago Coach Bob Bradley said Campos views the move to the Fire as “a great challenge at this point in his career.”

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The trade would not have gone through had the Galaxy not been willing to give up Armas, a 25-year-old All-American from Adelphi who played in 50 games for the Galaxy over two seasons.

“That was the price we had to pay,” Villanueva said. “There isn’t a coach in this league who doesn’t recognize what Chris Armas does on the field. He is one of the most highly sought American players in this league.

“We weren’t willing to make any other trade for Chris other than the strategic one we made [involving Campos].”

The Galaxy opens training camp in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 6 and opens its third MLS season at the Rose Bowl on March 21.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Jorge Campos With the Galaxy

* Position: Goalkeeper

* Age: 31

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* Citizenship: Mexico

* Games played: 43

* Minutes played: 3,609

* Saves: 152

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* Goals given up: 50

* Goals-against average: 1.25

* Playoff games: 6

* Playoff minutes: 472

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* Playoff goals given up: 6

* Playoff goals-against average: 1.14

* Honors: MLS all-star 1996; Western Conference champion 1996.

* Miscellaneous: First foreign player signed by the league. Traded to Chicago Fire, Jan. 26, 1998.

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