To change or not to change

then the hamstring pull suffered by Glen destroyed any hopes they had. The injury will lead some people to second-guess Bob Bradley and say the subs were made too early.

San Jose had Richard Mulrooney back and Kansas City made one big change, Khari Stephenson starting for Igor Simutenkov. The Earthquakes were inconsistent, which had plagued them all season, and Stephenson scored the huge first goal. Sometimes taking a risk works. Due to the Kansas City success everyone will think the change was a great move.

Finally, the Colorado Rapids let down on two set-pieces and could not make up for the missing John Spencer. The Galaxy returned Paul Broome and Cobi Jones to the starting lineup and got Carlos Ruiz on the scoreboard again. Improved play by the Galaxy and gifts from Colorado make it look like all the moves were the right ones.

The conference finals are very interesting games this week. D.C. United is playing very well but must now play without Dema Kovalenko and Ryan Nelsen in the one-game final due to yellow card accumulation. The loss of Nelsen will be tough on the defense. They can still succeed but the task is much harder now. New England gained a lot of confidence last week. They are feeling a sense of déjà vu from 2002 and another run to the final. A hot Matt Reis could be the key here. He was incredible when I was at UCLA and we won the 1997 NCAA title. He looks to be in that same zone.

Kansas City scored three goals last week, something they do not do often. Coach Bob Gansler faces another tough decision in goal, but will most likely stick close to the team that won against San Jose. The Galaxy is scoring off set pieces but not the run of play. This game could be decided by how the teams do on their free kicks.

The difference between winning and losing is very small. Teams are like thoroughbreds or cars driving in a Grand Prix race -- the smallest pebble can be a huge problem. Everyone remembers the positive results accomplished in the World Cup in 2002. How many remember that if Portugal scores instead of hitting the post against South Korea, the USA does not advance. In this case the difference between success and failure was maybe four inches. That is why players look at everything so closely in big games and all things become magnified.

The key for the week is calm and focus. Who will make changes that work and who will possibly unnerve the team or themselves by changing things? It is nervous time for all -- players, coaches, fans, and club personnel; the winner is the one who uses the butterflies to spur performance. Remember the difference between winning and losing is small, therefore small things matter.

Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at sigischmid@hotmail.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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