- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

Major League Soccer's most famous choke artists will meet the league's comeback kids in the MLS Cup tomorrow at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Reaching the MLS Cup and going home empty-handed has become a formality for the Los Angeles Galaxy. This will be the club's fourth trip to the final game in the league's seven-year history, but the league's winningest team (123-75-16) has yet to win the big one.
As for the New England Revolution the worst team in MLS history (85-116-14) the players are still pinching themselves. Talk about a turnaround.
The Revolution's season had disaster written all over it until late August. The club fired coach Fernando Clavijo in May, replaced him with Steve Nicol and was stuck in the basement of the Eastern Conference for much of the season. But after a victory over the Chicago Fire on Aug.24, the Revolution went 5-0-1 to win the Eastern Conference and record their best season. Before this year the Revolution had won only one postseason game; now the club gets a shot at the title on its home turf.
Meanwhile, the trip to Foxboro evokes bad memories for Los Angeles. The club lost two of its MLS Cup games at Foxboro, both against D.C. United in 1996 and 1999. Now the Galaxy must face a revived and confident New England team backed by a predicted crowd of 45,000.
But the difference this time for Los Angeles, which lost last year's final against San Jose, is Carlos Ruiz, aka "El Pescadito" (Little Fish). The Guatemalan striker has been a revelation since he joined MLS this year. Ruiz, who was voted the league's MVP yesterday, led MLS in regular-season goals with 24 and has added seven goals and two assists in five playoff games. Stopping Ruiz will be the key challenge for the Revolution's talented defense, which boasts former United defender Carlos Llamosa and Maryland star Leo Cullen.
Feeding Ruiz the ball is World Cup star Cobi Jones, the Peter Pan of American soccer, who had three goals and four assists in the playoffs and looks as sharp as ever at 32. The Galaxy are deadly on the attack, scoring 14 goals in five playoff games compared to the Revolution's eight.
The Revolution has their own weapons. Taylor Twellman, the club's star striker, led the league in points this season (23 goals, six assists, 52 points), and many of his goals were set up by Steve Ralston, the league's assist leader (19). Twellman sat out his team's last game with a knee sprain but should see action tomorrow.
Give us Ginola D.C. United coach Ray Hudson said this week he is talking with former French star David Ginola about coming to play in America.
"He's a high-priced ticket," Hudson said. "We all want the Ferrari. He's a wonderful player and would make a great addition to D.C. United."
Hudson made the comments in London, where United beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on Thursday in an exhibition game to raise funds for ex-Tottenham players. Ginola, a former Tottenham star, played in the game for his old club and showed flashes of brilliance.
It took a guest player Wade Barrett of the San Jose Earthquakes to score United's winning goal.
Gazza's woes Maybe it was all for the best that Paul Gascoigne didn't sign with D.C. United this summer. Gascoigne looked a shadow of his old self playing for Tottenham this week against United. And even worse. London's Sunday Mirror reported that Gascoigne is back to binge drinking.
Not surprisingly, Gascoigne was bypassed for the coaching post at Exeter City when he failed show for the job interview last week.
Where's Abby? Washington Freedom standouts Mia Hamm and Siri Mullinix were named to the U.S. women's team 18-player roster for the 2002 Gold Cup, but Freedom star and WUSA Rookie of the Year Abby Wambach didn't make the list. New Jersey high school star Heather O'Reilly seems to have taken Wambach's slot.
The Gold Cup (Oct.27-Nov.9), at four venues on the West Coast and in Canada, will be used as qualifying games for the 2003 World Cup in China.
The U.S. team is placed in Group 1 along with Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Panama, and it should face little trouble reaching the championship game. That would guarantee a place at the World Cup next year.

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