Fourth time's the charm
Ruiz's golden goal beats Revs, gives L.A. first MLS titlePosted: Sunday October 20, 2002 4:49 PM
Updated: Sunday October 20, 2002 8:42 PM
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Give Carlos Ruiz enough chances, and he's going to come out a winner.
Same with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Ruiz scored in the 23rd minute of overtime Sunday to give the Galaxy their first Major League Soccer title. He broke a scoreless tie to end the longest game in league history, a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup.
Los Angeles' victory was one of perseverance -- for Ruiz, who had two chances to win it earlier in overtime, and for the Galaxy, who lost three previous appearances in the championship game.
"It's been a long road for us," Los Angeles coach Sigi Schmid said. "Whether you want to admit it or not, it still hangs over your head a little bit. So this obviously gets some of those ghosts out of the closet."
The game was seven minutes from heading to a shootout.
Ruiz, the leading goal-scorer and MVP of the regular season, was chosen the game's MVP after ending 112 scoreless minutes with a breakaway goal over the outstretched legs of goalkeeper Adin Brown.
Tyrone Marshall brought the ball downfield with Ruiz on his left and only one defender, Rusty Pierce, to beat. Marshall crossed to Ruiz, who left-footed a shot past the diving Brown and into the far side of the net.
"Balls like that, you just try and make yourself as big as possible and hope it hits you," said the 6-foot-5 Brown. "It didn't hit me, as big as I am."
Ruiz, who played briefly in Greece for PAS Ioanina after seven years with CSD Municipal in Guatemala, was the only constant threat throughout the entire contest.
The game was just seven minutes from going to the league's first penalty kick shootout ever. And the game-winner came just a minute after Winston Griffiths' deflected shot went over the crossbar -- a rare threat against Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman.
"It's a very quiet dressing room," said interim coach Steve Nicol, who was promoted in midseason and led the team to an 8-2-3 record over its last 13 games. "It's very easy for me to stand in front of them and tell them to be proud of themselves, that the club's proud of them.
The defeat ended Nicol's week on a disappointing note. The former Liverpool and Scotland defender had been named MLS coach of the year last Wednesday.
"At this moment, all they care about is they lost a club final."
The Revolution had made the playoffs just twice before in the league's seven years, winning just one playoff game before this year. But they had the advantage of playing in their home stadium in front of a championship game-record crowd of 61,316.
"It's hard to swallow," said forward Taylor Twellman, the league's overall scoring champion and the runner-up to Ruiz in the MVP race. "But I think two weeks from now we'll realize it was a pretty good run and we should feel lucky that we got here."
Two of the Galaxy's three MLS Cup losses were in Foxboro, including the inaugural event in 1996, when D.C. United won 3-2 in overtime. They also lost in '99 and 2001.
On Sunday, the teams played to a scoreless tie after a half -- the first time that's happened in the MLS Cup's seven-year history.
Los Angeles threatened when Mauricio Cienfuegos crossed to Ruiz in the 17th minute, but he couldn't get to the ball before he was stuck behind the left post and had no angle on the goal.
In the 26th minute, Joe Franchino sent one into the box for Taylor Twellman, who tried to flick it with his head to Steve Ralston by the far post, but Ralston couldn't get to it.
Alex Pineda Chacon, a second-half substitute for Wolde Harris, unleashed a curling drive from just outside the penalty area forcing Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman to make his first save of game just seconds before the referee's whistle.
After neither team broke through in regulation, Ruiz had several chances to win it in overtime as the teams belatedly offered a flurry of offense.
In the 12th minute of overtime, Ruiz tried a bicycle kick that bounced off Brown's head. In the 20th minute, Ruiz took a pass from Peter Vagenas at the penalty spot, but Brown dived to his left to get a hand on it and knock it away.
Griffiths followed with a deflected shot that went off the crossbar in the 22nd minute.
Soon after, Ruiz ended it.
"When you have a proven goal-scorer like Carlos is, you give him two or three chances and he's going to finish one of them," said Cobi Jones, one of two players who have been on the Galaxy since the league's inception.
Ruiz scored 24 goals in the regular season, one more than Twellman, who returned to the lineup after missing the Revolution's previous game with a knee injury.
Ruiz had a game-high five shots on goal -- New England only had one -- including chances in the 12th and 17th minute as he continued to pressure the Revolution defense.
"In any game, you're going to have opportunities when you miss some and you make some," said Ruiz, who left the game briefly near the end of the first half after getting tangled up with New England's Carlos Llamosa.
"The thing is, we created those opportunities. Luckily, I was able to capitalize on one of those and make the difference."
Los Angeles has a chance to win both major domestic titles as the Galaxy play the Columbus Crew on Thursday for the U.S. Open Cup at Crew Stadium.
N.E. REVOLUTION --Adin Brown, Carlos Llamosa (Rusty Pierce 92+), Joe Franchino, Daouda Kante, Jay Heaps, Leo Cullen, Daniel Hernandez, Steve Ralston, Brian Kamler (Winston Griffiths 90), Taylor Twellman, Wolde Harris (Alex Pineda Chacon 76)
LOS ANGELES GALAXY --Kevin Hartman, Alexi Lalas, Danny Califf, Tyrone Marshall, Ezra Hendrickson, Sasha Victorine, Mauricio Cienfuegos (Peter Vagenas 61), Simon Elliott, Cobi Jones, Alejandro Moreno (Chris Albright 67), Carlos Ruiz
Referee: Kevin Terry; Assistant Referees: Greg Barkey, Richard Eddy