GALAXY'S DEFENSE FACES OPENING TEST.
PASADENA - Former Galaxy defender Robin Fraser has a rare combination of speed and positional sense.
Beginning with the inaugural Major League Soccer season in 1996, Fraser was there for the Galaxy, running down breakaways and cleaning up mistakes as the last man in the line of defense.
Not anymore. Fraser was traded Monday to the Colorado Rapids for future draft picks, a move made necessary to free up salary space after Cobi Jones re-signed with the MLS and returned to Los Angeles.
As the Galaxy opens its sixth MLS season tonight against San Jose at the Rose Bowl, defender Greg Vanney, who takes over Fraser's central role, said life will be difficult without his former teammate - but not impossible.
``Without question, (Fraser) has been the best defender in the league the last five years,'' Vanney said. ``When you lose a guy like that, you're going to lose a little something in your defense, there's no two ways about it. But we can't look at this as the end of the world. We have to step up and make it right.''
Vanney had hernia surgery last month and is listed as doubtful tonight. The Galaxy will likely start Alexi Lalas as the center defender, with Paul Caligiuri and Danny Califf on the outside.
With virtually no speed among those three, coach Sigi Schmid expects San Jose and other MLS teams to be more attack-oriented than normal against his team.
``Teams are going to say, `Let's test their speed in the back,' '' Schmid said. ``But I think with good positional play and appropriate defending, we can negate that.''
Schmid used the U.S. national team as an example of how to defend without speed. In the U.S. team's recent 2-1 victory over Honduras, Jeff Agoos and Carlos Llamosa played the central roles.
``You're not going to call either of those two speed burners,'' Schmid said. ``Yet the U.S. was able to play and not give away breakaways. Does that mean maybe we have to play four in the back? Maybe. We'll have to see how it goes.
``But for sure it means our positional play has to be good and we may have to be more conservative and less risky. With Robin we could match up man-to-man and stay even because we had speed to cover. That's not the case anymore.''
Playing and practicing without Fraser since January might help ease the transition.
Because of injuries, Fraser was not available for January's CONCACAF Champions' Cup, which the Galaxy won. And he was not available for a trip to the Far East in February or the Galaxy's exhibition games in Florida last month.
``In retrospect, it's a benefit because over the last three months we showed we could play without him and not give up a lot of goals,'' Schmid said. ``But there were a couple of games where we said, `Gee, if we had Robin's speed, it would make things a lot easier.'
``Yes, we would have been better with him on the field, but we're not horrible without him.''
Galaxy midfielder/defender Ezra Hendrickson needs more convincing.
``That was only a tournament and some exhibitions (without Fraser). We have to adjust to not having him for a 28-game season,'' Hendrickson said. ``We have experienced guys back there, but not having that (safety net) could take its toll.''
GALAXY vs. SAN JOSE
Time: 7 p.m., at the Rose Bowl
TV/Radio: FSN2; 870-AM, 1020-AM (Spanish)
Head-to-head: Galaxy is 14-4-2 all-time against the Earthquakes.
Match update: Galaxy defender Greg Vanney is listed as doubtful after having hernia surgery last month. Alexi Lalas, acquired in December after announcing his retirement following the 1999 season, will make his debut as a central defender, with Paul Caligiuri and Danny Califf as the outside backs. The midfield will consist of Mauricio Cienfuegos, Cobi Jones, Ezra Hendrickson, Simon Elliott and Peter Vagenas. Sasha Victorine will start up front with rookie Brian Ching. The Earthquakes acquired 19-year-old striker Landon Donovan from Germany's Bayer Leverkusen, but fractured ribs will keep Donovan, who is from Redlands, on the sidelines. Canadian international Dwayne DeRosario had an impressive training camp and forward Ronald Cerritos is always dangerous.
-Fred J. Robledo
GALAXY vs. SAN JOSE (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 7, 2001|
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