This week rivals, next week teammates

perhaps more importantly -- both teams want to show they rule the roost in Central American soccer.

"Right now the most important thing for me is to advance to the final and win the cup," said Ramirez. "In the past week I began to think about the team and who my companions are (on the Galaxy), but now I am with Guatemala and it does not matter if a teammate is a rival. One must play the game to win."

"Michael Umaña is here to defend the colors of his country and reach the final. We have the same situation," the Guatemalan captain said at his selection's training session on Thursday.

Guatemala has revenge on their mind. They are looking to avenge a disastrous 5-0 loss to Costa Rica in the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

But revenge in this match also has a special meaning for Umaña and Costa Rica, as they too have a score to settle. CSD Municipal of Guatemala -- featuring Ramirez -- beat Saprissa in the UNCAF club championship in December.

Even though both teams are lacking key figures for Friday's match at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala, scuh as Carlos Ruiz of Guatemala and Paulo Wanchope of Costa Rica, the match will be a battle.

"Guillermo is a great player, but today we will be on different teams. When we arrive in Los Angeles I expect we will become good friends," Umaña said. "[But] here we are rivals and each of us should fight for our country. As he will, I too will do as much as possible to win."

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. local time, and the match will be televised in the USA by Galavision. The other semifinal between Honduras and Panama will precede the Guatemala-Costa Rica contest.

In addition, another Central American player will reportedly join the Galaxy soon as Steve Sampson completes the backbone of his team. Veteran Costa Rican international Pablo Chinchilla is expected to sign with the club next week.

"I believe we are very near to arriving at an arrangement with the Galaxy," said the 26-year-old Chinchilla, currently with Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in the Costa Rican first division. "It is a question of time now. Both executives already arrived at an agreement. I'm excited to arrive in the MLS."

Chinchilla's expected addition should round out the Galaxy rearguard, which along with Umaña will also feature Jamaican international Tyrone Marshall and U.S. international Chris Albright.

"Pablo will go to the Galaxy on a loan for two years, with the option of being purchased in the first year. All sides involved with the contract believe this to be a good agreement. Pablo has many desires to go to the Galaxy. Only an official signing of the contract is left," said Manrique Lara, vice president of Alajuelense.

"The Galaxy have been interested in Pablo since October of 2004. Pablo has been over there more than over here but until the contract is drawn we do not have anything."

Rene Romano is a contributor to MLSnet.com. Fernando Ruiz (Guatemala), Arnoldo Rivera (Costa Rica) and James Demastus (Los Angeles) also contributed to this report.


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