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Bruce Arena attends Galaxy's first post-Gullit game
by Ridge Mahoney, August 15th, 2008 7AM
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The SuperClasico is supposed to be the most passionate rivalry in MLS, yet in some ways it played a reserve role Thursday night. With Bruce Arena in attendance at Home Depot Center in the luxury box used by Anschutz Entertainment Group president Tim Leiweke, Cobi Jones on the sideline making his debut as a head coach, and rumors swirling of Galaxy attempts to offload Carlos Ruiz to make room for U.S. international Eddie Lewis, the local teams played a sloppy yet riveting 2-2 tie.

Galaxy striker Alan Gordon nailed a header past Chivas USA keeper Zach Thornton in the second minute of stoppage time to bring L.A. a point after it had surrendered two goals to squander a 1-0 lead. Goals 13 minutes apart by Atiba Harris and Paulo Nagamura canceled out Landon Donovan's 14th goal of the season, set up by Chris Klein's ball up the right flank and Donovan's sharp finish just inside the far post.

League-leading scorer Donovan and his mates controlled play for much of the first half but, as so often been the case in 2008, couldn't add to their lead and eventually their creaky defense sprang leaks. Donovan, David Beckham and Edson Buddle all shot over the bar with the score 1-0, and gradually Chivas USA gained a foothold in midfield and evened out the match, though not until the 44th minute did it force Galaxy keeper Steve Cronin to make a save.

Cronin got busy right away in the second half, saving four shots in as many minutes before Harris, who'd been stoned by Cronin just a minute earlier, ran onto a Nagamura pass and thumped it home. Maykel Galindo replaced Keith Savage and an offensive frenzy ensued: end-to-end play rife with narrow misses until Nagamura and Harris reversed their roles. Nagamura surged past a static Galaxy defense to tuck away Harris' pass in the 63rd minute.

Gordon replaced Alvaro Pires 10 minutes later as the Galaxy regained the upper hand, but its chance at a point had seemingly slipped away in the 88th minute when Mike Randolph buzzed up the left wing and smacked his shot off the crossbar. Two minutes into stoppage time, Ante Jazic lofted a ball into the goalmouth and Gordon easily outjumped Jim Curtin to head home the equalizer.

The tie didn't help either struggling team much in the standings. They remain fourth and fifth in the West. Los Angeles (6-8-6, 24 points) failed to win for the eighth straight game; Chivas USA (6-8-5, 23 points) snapped a two-game losing streak but hasn't won since July 5, a span of seven league and SuperLiga matches.

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who scored two goals in China for the U.S. Olympic team, arrived at HDC in time for the game but didn't play.

In a live interview during the ESPN2 telecast, Leiweke said his meeting with Arena was a "conversation" not an "interview." But Leiweke also said, "No bones about it, he'd be the ideal guy to come in here. There's not a better candidate or a better coach. We'd be honored to have him. Whether or not that happens, time will tell."

Arena was also seen talking with director of soccer Paul Bravo, who so far has escaped the purge that jettisoned Coach Ruud Gullit and president/general manager Alexi Lalas on Monday.

Donovan and Ruiz will head to Guatemala City to play in the Guatemala-USA CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Wednesday. The Galaxy and MLS have been investigating loan deals for Ruiz to play in his native country in case a trade can't be worked out. The MLS transfer window closes Friday; the MLS trade deadline is Aug. 31.

Lewis became available to the Galaxy, first on the allocation list, when it declined an opportunity to use its the slot on defender Cory Gibbs, who has been signed by Colorado, which was second in line. But the Galaxy must clear a roster spot and salary-cap space to sign Lewis.

 



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