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Galaxy nip Revolution for MLS title

Posted: Monday, October 21, 2002

FOXBORO, Mass. -- 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.

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. Tyrone Marshall brought the ball downfield with Ruiz on his left and one defender to beat. Marshall crossed to Ruiz, who left-footed a shot 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.''

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.

''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 runner-up to Ruiz in the scoring and 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.

After neither team threatened much 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.''



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