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Chivas’ Ramirez Now Has Los Angeles’ Attention

Times Staff Writer

Ramon Ramirez got his first lesson in Los Angeles soccer Sunday afternoon, fielding questions in the Coliseum tunnel from English-speaking reporters whose Spanish, sadly enough, ranged from fractured to farcical.

Over the years, Ramirez, 34, has played here frequently, either with Chivas of Guadalajara or Mexico’s national team. On those occasions, however, he was not necessarily the focus of attention.

Now that he has announced he will play for Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center next season, Ramirez’s appeal suddenly has broadened. Major League Soccer reporters now have to pay attention.

And so, after Ramirez had helped Chivas secure a 1-1 tie with Boca Juniors of Argentina in front of an estimated 21,000 in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, he met the media.

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“It’s a chance to prolong my career,” he said when asked why he had agreed to come to MLS. “If I stay healthy and don’t get injured, I have another two years left in me.

“But my goal is to orient the other players and share my experience with them.”

Ramirez’s Chivas teammate Francisco Palencia, 31, also will play for Chivas USA next season, but Ramirez said he has not heard which other players the team might sign or who the coach will be.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be someone who knows both Mexico and the United States and can show the players both styles” of play, he said.

Benjamin Galindo is coach of Guadalajara, having taken over that position from Dutchman Hans Westerhof at the end of the last Mexican league season, when Chivas finished second behind the UNAM Pumas.

Westerhof now oversees coaching for all three of owner Jorge Vergara’s teams -- Chivas in Mexico, Saprissa in Costa Rica and Chivas USA, and he probably will spend considerable time in Los Angeles helping establish the latter club.

Ramirez said that he expected Chivas USA to bring Mexico’s style of play to the league and generate the passion that Mexican fans feel for the sport.

He agreed that the team’s debut next season will have an immediate effect on MLS and not just the Galaxy, with whom it will share the Home Depot Center.

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“Of course there will be a rivalry,” he said. “Everyone will want to beat Chivas USA, just like in Mexico everyone wants to beat Chivas.”

On Sunday, Boca Juniors could not manage that, even though it was gifted a goal when Chivas goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera sent a would-be clearance kick in the 15th minute straight to Boca’s Ariel Carreno, who promptly put it in the back of the net.

The goal tied the score, because Chivas had taken the lead in the ninth minute when Fernando Camacho fired a 20-yard shot that slammed into the Boca crossbar and bounced over the line.

Camacho almost scored again in the 38th minute but Boca goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero threw himself to his left and tipped Camacho’s shot around the right post.

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Two minutes before halftime, Boca, which finished runner-up to champion River Plate in Argentina last season, survived another close call when defender Cesar Gonzalez, standing on the goal line, headed away a shot by Chivas’ Juan Pablo Alfaro.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Guatemala, playing without Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz, edged El Salvador, 1-0.

The lone goal came just before halftime when Henry Medina headed in a free kick by teammate Guillermo Ramirez after Zacarias Antonio had been tripped by El Salvador’s Jorge Rodriguez, who was ejected for the foul.


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