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Heat Is Turned Up on Galaxy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For a team beginning to feel the heat of a conference championship race, the Galaxy tonight will be in the last place it wants to be.

That’s Dallas, where the temperature for the last few weeks has bordered on infernal.

The Fire is closing in from behind--Chicago is three games behind the Galaxy--and the Burn waiting in front.

On what is certain to be a sweltering night at the Cotton Bowl, Coach Octavio Zambrano’s squad is battling meltdown. It might be 16-5, but the Galaxy has lost three of its last four games.

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Worse yet, it goes into the game without its top scorer, Welton. The Brazilian striker was tossed out of Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to Washington at the Rose Bowl for a foul that was spotted by referee Esse Baharmast but went unseen by many in the stadium.

That means the goal-scoring chores tonight are going to fall to . . . whom?

Welton, who along with winger Cobi Jones and Robin Fraser will be heading to Orlando, Fla., on Thursday to play in Sunday’s MLS All-Star game, leads the team with 13 goals.

Taking him out of the lineup will make it easier for the Burn defense to concentrate on stopping Mauricio Cienfuegos, who has 11 goals, and Jones, who has nine.

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Martin Machon, Ezra Hendrickson and Clint Mathis have all shown that they can score, so it is not lack of firepower that has been the Galaxy’s recent problem.

Rather, it has been a lack of willingness to pull the trigger. Against D.C. United, the players appeared to want to stroll the ball into the net. They prefer dribbling and passing to shooting.

Given the ferocity behind the shots of such players as Greg Vanney and Harut Karapetyan, Zambrano needs to encourage them and the rest of the team to shoot first and ask why later.

“We’re just out of sync right now,” Jones said after Saturday’s loss. “We need to get back to our winning ways, our ways of scoring goals.”

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The Galaxy leads the league with 60 goals, an average of almost three a game. But it has been shut out twice in its last four games.

Complicating matters for Los Angeles, the Burn needs the victory even more desperately.

Dallas (10-11) has lost four of its last five and nine of its last 13, and dissension is rife.

“You look at other teams and they were playing soccer, building chemistry and doing tactics in the preseason,” one unidentified player told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We were going on long runs and doing mindless juggling with little rubber soccer balls. We’re cleaning up messes that should have been cleaned up in preseason.”

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Given such criticism of his methods, Coach Dave Dir slapped a gag order on his players, some of whom are calling for him to be fired.

“We haven’t responded well to our problems,” Dir said after four consecutive losses. “Our bench is not strong and some of the players have chosen to place the blame elsewhere.”

The last time the Galaxy visited Dallas, it trounced the Burn, 8-1, setting league and club records.


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