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Galaxy coach prepares for Mutiny's 1-2 punch

Los Angeles coach Sigi Schmid didn't need to lock himself in the video room once he found out his Galaxy would play Tampa Bay in the first round of the Major League Soccer playoffs. Though the teams are more than 3,000 miles apart and have played only twice this season, Schmid knows the key to beating the Mutiny:

Stop forward Mamadou Diallo and midfielder Carlos Valderrama.

"The goals that Mamadou has this year kind of sticks out in your mind. And certainly a lot of his service comes from Carlos," said Schmid, a coach at UCLA for 19 years before taking over for Octavio Zambrano early last season. "There's a lot of other people there, but Mamadou and Carlos stand out.

"Mamadou is a unique problem because he is so strong and imposing. He doesn't hesitate to use his body. He's not shy about that. Our players have to be aware of that.

"And then Carlos is a player with amazing vision. He's somebody who can make dangerous passes in very close spaces. Our team has to be aware of that."

Diallo torched the league for 26 goals this season, second all time to Roy Lassiter's 27 with the Mutiny in 1996. Valderrama shattered his league assist record of 19 with 26.

Los Angeles is well aware of this.

The Galaxy has familiar players, including midfielder Cobi Jones, a fixture on the U.S. national team who led Los Angeles with seven goals and six assists despite missing seven games. And there's El Salvador midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos, who has four goals and seven assists. And Mexican forward Luis Hernandez, a star in the Mexican first division, who has scored four goals and six assists in 16 games.

Though those players will be counted on heavily, the key to the series will be the Los Angeles defenders. Greg Vanney, Ezra Hendrickson, Robin Fraser and veteran Paul Caligiuri must try to shut down Valderrama and Diallo. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who has a 1.00 goals-against average, also will be key.

Defender Danny Califf, who has marked Diallo in the past, is with the U.S. Olympic team. Midfielder Sasha Victorine and midfielder Peter Vagenas also are with the Olympic team.

Los Angeles allowed 37 goals in the regular season, second-best behind Kansas City's 29. Tampa Bay scored 62, third-best in the league.

Mutiny coach Tim Hankinson knows what to expect.

"Everyone in every game this season has done everything possible to stop (Diallo)," Hankinson said. "(The Galaxy has) to find a different type of player to play against him because in the past they had Califf. They may even use two players against him. But Mamadou has been playing against two guys all season. It's really not a new scenario. It's just going to be our ability to execute."

Fraser said he and his teammates will shadow Diallo and Valderrama's every move.

"You just have to make sure you know where they are at all times," he said. "Whenever we lose the ball, we have to make sure we find those guys. I think they're pretty unique in this league. There isn't really a twosome like them in the league this year. (D.C. United's Marco) Etcheverry and (Jaime) Moreno were kind of like that, but they had off years."

Tampa Bay and Los Angeles split their games this season. The Mutiny lost 2-1 in Los Angeles on June 17, a game in which Valderrama missed a penalty kick.

On July 22, the Mutiny won 2-0 against a Galaxy team missing six starters to national team duties. Steve Trittschuh and Diallo scored late.

This is the first time the teams have met in the playoffs. Tampa Bay was swept by Columbus last season and hasn't won a playoff game in six tries. Los Angeles played in the MLS Cup last season.

"In some ways maybe they're similar to us," Hankinson said. "I'm not saying the same qualities everywhere, but the way they use Cienfuegos is the same way we use Carlos. They like to attack the wings like we do. It should be a wide-open game."

MCBRIDE ON LOAN: Brian McBride was loaned from the MLS Columbus Crew to Preston North End in England's first division. McBride, a 28-year-old forward, scored for the United States in its 1-0 win over Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier Sept. 3.

VIALLI FIRED: English Premiership club Chelsea fired Gianluca Vialli after winning one of its five opening matches. Chelsea, which spent about $36.7-million on players in the off-season, won five trophies in 2{ years with Vialli coaching.

MIAMI 3, NY/NJ 2: Visiting Miami, which didn't qualify for the MLS playoffs, advanced to the final of the U.S. Open Cup against the Fire on Oct. 21. Andy Williams, Welton and Diego Serna scored for Miami.

_ Times wire services contributed to this report.