1. Archive

Will Los Angeles bring the Mutiny happy returns?

The headline, cut out of the April 4 edition of USA Today, hangs on a wall in Guillermo Jara's apartment: "Galaxy cut Jara."

He sees it every day. It serves as a reminder, and it also serves as a motivator.

"That's there to remind me every time I go out to practice or play," Jara said. "This game is important to me. I've been thinking about it ever since I got here."

The game he's referring to is tonight's match between the Mutiny and Los Angeles. Jara was an original member of the Galaxy. He was on the 1996 team that ran up a 12-0 record and eventually went to the MLS Cup. In the Galaxy's first trip to Tampa that season, Jara scored a goal.

But there was no room for him on this year's team, which features stars Cobi Jones and Mauricio Cienfuegos. The day he was released, the Mutiny, desperate for a center midfielder, claimed him off waivers.

Now he has a chance to return home and try to spoil the Galaxy's perfect season. Los Angeles is 5-0, and Jara, who has been used as a second-half sub, would like nothing more than to help give his old team its first blemish.

"I'm the kind of guy that hates to lose, and I definitely don't want to lose to those guys," Jara said. "It's going to feel kind of like a practice to me because I just left there two weeks ago. There's been a lot of (talk) back and forth between me and some of their players. Hopefully, we'll be the ones talking after the game."

Jara is the most recent Mutiny player to leave Los Angeles, but not the only one. This game is a homecoming for five players and assistant coach Lothar Osiander.

Josh Keller, Frankie Hejduk, Sam George and Adam Frye went to UCLA. And Osiander was the coach of the Galaxy until last midseason. Current Galaxy coach Octavio Zambrano was Osiander's assistant. Keller, like Jara, is recently removed from Los Angeles. He helped the Bruins to this year's NCAA championship before being drafted in the first round by the Mutiny. His college roommate, Matt Reis, is a reserve goalkeeper for Los Angeles.

"I've been looking forward to this trip all year," Keller said. "It's like a homecoming. There'll be family and friends in the stands."

Although the homecoming is nice, it will mean little if the Mutiny loses. And on paper, that's exactly what the Mutiny should do.

The Galaxy is second in the league with 12 goals. The Mutiny is 1-4, struggling to find goals and playing in a place _ the Rose Bowl _ that has been less than kind. The Mutiny is 0-4 in the Los Angeles area, and was outscored 10-2 in two games last season.

Even when it seems the Mutiny gets a break, it really doesn't. Jones, who has four goals and five assists, is traveling from Austria, where the U.S. national team played an exhibition Wednesday night. Jones played 90 minutes and is traveling more than 10,000 miles.

But so is Hejduk, who played 80 minutes in the exhibition. Hejduk has been the Mutiny's only real scoring threat, tallying two of the Mutiny's four goals. Fatigue is sure to affect both players.

Mutiny coach John Kowalski knows his team will be the underdog. But he also likes his chances.

"The odds are in our favor," Kowalski said. "They're 5-0 and we're 1-4. They can't play that good all the time, and we can play better. It's just a matter of converting our early chances. If we can do that, then it takes the pressure off of us. But as the minutes go on and we don't score, the pressure starts to mount."

Zambrano knows soccer is a game of streaks. So he chooses to downplay his team's start.

"Though it's a great start for us, we can't lose sight of the ultimate goal," he said. "We are all feeling good about our record, but there are bigger things that we have to keep our eye on and stay focused on that."