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GALAXY PUTTING L.A. TO THE TEST.

Byline: Tom Timmermann Daily News Deputy Sports Editor

There is no question that Los Angeles is a soccer town. It is the site of dozens of international matches each year, ranging from the U.S. national team to Mexican and Central American clubs. In January, the championship match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup drew a sellout crowd of 90,000 at the Coliseum despite a driving rainstorm.

What remains to be seen is if Los Angeles is a Major League Soccer town.

The first test of that will come tonight at 7 at the Rose Bowl, when the Galaxy, Los Angeles' entry in the 10-team league, faces the inclusively titled New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

Galaxy officials expect to sell out their downsized capacity of 28,000 at the Rose Bowl and will then open extra sections in the stands as needed, which could mean a crowd of more than 30,000.

This is the first full weekend for the MLS, which debuted before a packed house of 31,000 in San Jose last weekend. ``If Southern California can't beat a rinky-dink town up north,'' said MLS chairman Alan Rothenberg at a Galaxy luncheon sponsored by the L.A. Sports Council on Tuesday, ``then something is wrong.''

The Galaxy, which hopes to average about 15,000 fans per game this season, is seeking to appeal to everybody in the diverse Los Angeles market.

There's a Mexican star (goalkeeper Jorge Campos), a Central American star (midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos of El Salvador), a South American star (forward Eduardo Hurtado of Ecuador), an American star (midfielder Cobi Jones of Westlake Village) and a Hollywood star (Andrew Shue, of Fox's ``Melrose Place,'' who played at Dartmouth).

There are four former UCLA players and one former Cal State Northridge player (Joey Kirk, who won't be on hand today because he still is playing in the NPSL playoffs.)

Professional soccer has made more than a few stops in Los Angeles, most recently in the form of the APSL's L.A. Salsa, who set up shop in Fullerton in 1993 and '94. Before that: the Toros (1967), the Wolves ('67-68), the Aztecs ('74-81), the Skyhawks ('76-79, at Birmingham High School), the Sunshine ('77-80), the Lazers ('78), the Heat ('86-90), the Kickers ('86-89) and the Emperors ('90).

Add to that three indoor teams, the Lazers ('82-'89), L.A. United ('93) and the Splash ('94-present), and it makes for a fairly full platter.

But most of those teams played before paltry crowds in high school stadiums with marginally talented Americans, aging foreigners and very few recognizable names. The Galaxy hopes to bring fair-sized crowds into big stadiums with more talented American players, a smattering of young foreigners and a few recognizable names.

Still, only the soccer cognoscenti have heard of most Galaxy players - ``Ladies and gentlemen, Harut Karapetyan

'' - and the only prominent American player on the team is midfielder Cobi Jones, unless you remember Dan Calichman's cup of coffee with the national team.

But the league hopes to make its own stars rather than importing high-priced players from foreign countries, which is what the NASL did in the '70s and Japan's J-League did in the '90s.

No one is quite sure what to expect tonight. Last Saturday's inaugural MLS game between San Jose and Washington showed that a lot of players weren't up to speed yet or weren't in step with their teammates.

Also, so far, there is no such thing as scouting of an opponent.

``I've got the starting 11 for New York written up on the blackboard in the locker room,'' said Galaxy coach Lothar Osiander, ``and I bet I'm only right on eight of them. Right now, we're trying to outguess each other.

``In practice, guys look good, but whether they'll be that way against New York. . . . I think it will take four, five, six, seven games before as a coach you know what to expect.''

What Osiander - and the league - expects is attacking soccer, which everyone hopes is the hallmark of the league. The assumption is that a lot of 1-0 games won't win over American fans, but 3-2 games will.

``There's a mandate from within to please the fans,'' Osiander said. ``With New York, you can't pick on any one player because there's no one to pick on.''

``It will take a while to get used to each other,'' said former UCLA midfielder Jorge Salcedo, whose father Hugo has bought 120 tickets for friends and family for the match.

``One thing everyone hopes is that we have a lot of success right away. With all the hype, people have to be patient.

We won't play bad in the first game, but we won't play the greatest. If (the first game) was the worst, then we're in good shape.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1--color) When he plays Billy on the Fox prime-ti me drama ``Melrose Place,'' he's busy chasing down stars like Heather Locklear for another steam scene. But actor Andrew Shue wouldn't mind chasing down some New Jersey/New York MetroStars tonight when the Galaxy makes its Major League Soccer debut at the Rose Bowl.

(2) Lothar Osiander - Galaxy coach

Terri Thuente / Daily News
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 13, 1996
Words:861
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