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Galaxy Has the Slow Start, but Jet Lag Gets Best of Clash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a long flight that Eric Wynalda took from France to rejoin the San Jose Clash.

And the Galaxy should be thankful for every minute of it.

After dominating play in the first half, the U.S. national team forward tired in the final 45 minutes, leaving room for Los Angeles to forge a 2-1 comeback victory on Saturday night before 22,694 at Spartan Stadium.

The Galaxy (14-2) can take some measure of satisfaction from the clutch goals it got from defender Paul Caligiuri and forward Harut Karapetyan in the latter stages of the game.

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But this was the second come-from-behind victory in as many weeks and the second time the team has started the game looking decidedly lackluster.

“That’s a real bad habit,” defender Greg Vanney said. “I think it’s something we have to sort out.”

The vaunted Los Angeles offense, which had succeeded all season with speed down the wings, spent the early part of the game sending repeated and harmless long balls down the center of the field.

Even newcomer Carlos Hermosillo seemed to sense as much, doing his best to direct the offense outside.

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Welton returned the favor in the 29th minute by sending a cross back into the box. Hermosillo made room for himself and headed the ball toward the far post, but a diving Clash goalkeeper David Kramer made the save.

Moments later, Kramer made an even better stop, denying Welton from point-blank range.

While the Galaxy struggled to get only three shots in the half, the Clash (5-11) was finding plenty of chances, thanks mainly to Wynalda.

The Westlake Village native set up the game’s first goal in the 15th minute, launching a chip shot from the right side of the box. The ball floated just over goalkeeper Matt Reis and directly to Clash defender Richard Gough, who headed it home.

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It seemed that Wynalda was everywhere, stealing the ball at midfield or dribbling past three Galaxy defenders or sending a dangerous through ball to teammate Eddie Lewis.

Perhaps he found a bit more room against the Galaxy than he had against Germany. Perhaps, after a less-than-sparkling World Cup experience, he was playing inspired.

“I want to prove something to myself,” he said.

But having arrived in San Jose at 7 p.m. on Friday evening, he began to run out of gas in the second half. “It’s to be expected,” he said. And the Galaxy began showing signs of life, pushing everyone up, playing smarter.

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“We were playing too much down the middle channel,” Coach Octavio Zambrano said. “We needed to spread them out.”

Los Angeles did just that.

In the 64th minute, Welton made a stirring run up the right wing and was dragged down by Clash midfielder Vincente Figueroa. Mauricio Cienfuegos missed the penalty kick, his first such miss this season, but the shot banged off the right post and Caligiuri, returning from the injured list, drove home the tying goal.

“I think they came out more forceful,” Clash Coach Brian Quinn said. “We handled the initial storm, but then . . . “

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But then, in the 85th minute, Vanney drove a wicked free kick from 35 yards that clanged off the very same piece of woodwork. Karapetyan flashed in to put the ball away.

“Our adjustments worked just perfectly,” Zambrano said.

And just in time for the return of the Galaxy’s own national team player, Cobi Jones, who is scheduled to bring back his rapid-fire skills for next Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Wizards. Hopefully, he will arrive in Los Angeles with more than 24 hours to rest from the flight.

Take it from an exhausted Wynalda, who slumped back on the trainer’s table, declining to talk about his World Cup troubles, too tired to offer much more than this assessment:

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“I’m still spinning.”


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