Work in Sports
Top MLS defender spends game on sidelines
Posted: Sunday December 19, 1999 11:52 AM
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- In retrospect, it seems the Los Angeles Galaxy's chances of winning MLS Cup '99 were broken at the same time as Robin Fraser's collarbone.
Fraser fell in the corner of the field, grabbing his shoulder in pain. Just seven minutes into the title game, the Galaxy was without its captain and the league's defender of the year.
"There's no way I envisioned it, that's for sure," he said after leaving the game.
In stoppage time at the close of the first half, MLS goalkeeper of the year Kevin Hartman fumbled with an oddly bouncing ball in front of his net and kicked it right to D.C. United's Ben Olsen. That mistake led to a critical goal.
"I feel like I stole money from my teammates and stole money from the fans," said a subdued Hartman from the Galaxy locker room after the game.
With two of the league's top players either knocked out or playing below standard, the Galaxy became the newest victim of the United dynasty, as D.C. won 2-0 for its third championship in the league's four years.
While Fraser went home with a broken left collarbone, Hartman left with a bruised ego.
The injury occurred as Fraser and D.C. forward Roy Lassiter chased a ball to the corner.
"I beat him to the ball and got pushed from behind and there was no call," Fraser said. "It was a foul."
Referee Tim Weyland saw otherwise, and no foul was called. Steve Jolley, who started 21 regular-season games, replaced Fraser, and the Galaxy realigned its defense, switching to a three-man line with Paul Caligiuri as sweeper rather than playing four across.
"It's a matter of almost totally having to relearn how to play the game," Hartman said of the alterations.
But Fraser minimized the effects of his absence.
"Our team is a solid team all around," he said. "No one player is going to make a difference."
United coach Thomas Rongen said he didn't alter his team's approach after Fraser's departure.
"We don't alter our game plan very often," he said. "We play our game regardless of who's on the other side of the ball."
With Fraser absent from the league's stingiest defense, an added burden fell on Hartman. He made a sprawling save on Lassiter's shot, but Moreno converted the rebound in the 19th minute.
Then, during extra time in the first half, Hartman failed on a clearance attempt but managed to dribble around Lassiter. As he attempted to pass away the ball, his right foot took a divot out of the hard ground in front of the goal.
The ball rolled to Olsen, who scored easily.
"I went to take a chop out into space and the ball bounced up on me" as Lassiter closed in, Hartman said.
"The field was terrible," he said. "I'm not going to blame it all on that. It was unfortunate. I got my foot caught in the ground."
In the second half, Hartman played more like the goalkeeper who set a league record this season with 11 shutouts while playing all but 10 minutes of the 32-game regular season. His goals against average was just 0.91.