Galaxy's Jones must beat Revolution for first MLS Cup

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2002

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The dreadlocks and youthful looks remain. So does the energy he showed when he first played for the U.S. national team in 1992.

A decade later, 32-year-old Cobi Jones is a key to the Los Angeles Galaxy's pursuit of the MLS championship.

''Cobi's accomplished so much in his career, this is something that he wants,'' Los Angeles coach Sigi Schmid said. ''He's really put forth a tremendous playoff series.''

Jones is second to teammate and league MVP Carlos Ruiz in playoff scoring this season with one game left -- Sunday against the New England Revolution for the league title in the MLS Cup.

To win their first title after going 0-3 in MLS Cups, the Galaxy must beat a young, stingy goalkeeper. The Revolution are in their first final.

Adin Brown has four shutouts in six playoff games. The 24-year-old goalie's 0.64 goals-against average is the best in postseason play this year. The Revolution also have players who lack Jones' experience but can match his talent.

Taylor Twellman, who is just 22, scored 23 goals in the regular season, second to Ruiz's 24. And 28-year-old Steve Ralston led the league with 19 assists, many on passes to Twellman, who said he will play after missing the last game with a knee injury.

''We just have to do what we've been doing the last eight weeks of the season and in the playoffs, which is to make things a little ugly for them and make it hard for them,'' Twellman said. ''Because once they get the ball moving, they're fun to watch.''

Jones has been with the Galaxy since the league began in 1996. He scored their first goal, led the team in scoring the last four seasons before Ruiz topped him, and played in his third consecutive World Cup this year.

''It makes the jobs of everyone around (Ruiz) a lot easier when you can have someone who can hold the ball and be dangerous up top,'' Jones said.

He got six of his 13 regular-season assists on goals by Ruiz. That assist total ranked fourth in the league, and Jones has added an MLS-best four in the playoffs.

''His leadership has been excellent this year,'' Schmid said. ''More so than any other year, he's really grown and matured into that role. Cobi was always the young guy on the national team, just hang out and do your thing.''

The Galaxy have another 32-year-old player who's been in the MLS since its first season: defender Alexi Lalas. He spent his first two seasons with the Revolution.

''I had a great time on and off the field,'' he said. ''I certainly regret the fact that I was part of some mediocre teams and we really didn't deserve the type of support that was being given.''

The Revolution had to rally just to reach this year's playoffs, going 5-0-1 in their last six games and clinching a berth in their final game.

But they were 1-4 in the playoffs in their first six seasons and never won a postseason series. This year, they beat Chicago in the quarterfinals and Columbus in the semis.

Fan support is one reason the MLS decided before the season to hold the championship game in Foxboro for the third time.

The MLS Cup record of 57,431 could be in jeopardy. It was set in 1997 when D.C. United won at its home stadium.

''I can't imagine 50,000 fans screaming everybody's name and chanting for us,'' Brown said. ''It will be a lot of fun. The fans deserve it.''

The Galaxy lost championship games in 1996, 1999 and 2001. Now they have another chance in a league that many thought wouldn't last this long.

''The league has done tremendous. I think it's only moving forward,'' Jones said. ''It's a young league. It's only seven years old. It's going to continue to grow.''

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