Galaxy Notebook: Sizing up the competition

However MLS Cup plays out, the first 20 minutes could dictate the match. The Galaxy are entering Sunday's final against the New England Revolution with a cautious approach as players said the team will take particular care to come out of the first phase of the game unscathed.

"The first 20 minutes will probably be a bit hard on the eyes for a fan," Galaxy captain Peter Vagenas said. "You'll see two teams who are sort of a bit nervous, I guess. You won't see anybody taking any chances. You'll see both teams actually playing very direct."

Although the game features several heavy hitters such as New England's Taylor Twellman and the Galaxy's Landon Donovan, it could take a while for either team to score or even to piece together an effective possession.

The Galaxy have had plenty of opportunities to deal with untimely goals. Against these same Revs, the Galaxy blew a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute of stoppage time on July 1. Also, the Galaxy allowed late goals against D.C. United and Chicago -- both at home -- to lose games.

That can't happen in the final.

"We have to be very intelligent in our approach to the game. We can't afford to make silly mistakes and unnecessary fouls," Galaxy coach Steve Sampson said. "The first 20 minutes of the game will be very important."

Even with a guarded approach to the opening, though, one side could break through.

"You don't want to take undue risk early in the game but I think at any point in time ... anything can happen at any moment," Sampson said.

With cautious teams playing in a final, there is the opportunity that the game will not be an entertaining affair. But if it Galaxy players have their way, the game will be entertaining for both sides.

"I hope the teams will bring an exciting type of soccer. I hope it's not a typical final that you see that's sort of drawn out. I hope both teams come with a sense to play and entertain these fans because that's why we're here," Vagenas said.

Last year's MLS Cup featured five goals as D.C. United beat Kansas City in a surprising offensive affair. This year, Galaxy players are hoping for a similar game.

"I don't want some boring, ragged, everybody-is-kicking-each-other game. I want it to be a good game and may the best team win," Donovan said.

SCORELESS SOCCER: If the game does not feature an early goal, it could mirror the previous MLS Cup these two teams played. In MLS Cup 2002, the Galaxy and New England finished regulation scoreless. It remained that way until Carlos Ruiz put away a goal off a counterattack in the 113th minute.

The longer the game goes scoreless won't necessarily be a positive for either side.

"I think it all depends on how the game is going, who has had the run of play and which team has looked sharper on the day," Vagenas said. "Back in 2002, that obviously played to our advantage because we were starting to take it towards the end where they were dominating early on."

What happens if the game is not decided after 90 minutes?

"It's very possible that it can go to extra time but it's two great teams and I'm sure they'll be prepared for it as well," Vagenas said.

L.A. GLORY: For the Galaxy, winning a championship is not just a goal; it is a demand.

Blame the other Los Angeles sports teams for that.

"This club expects to win. The city of Los Angeles expects to win," Donovan said. "I grew up in L.A. and I realized that watching teams. The Dodgers were good, the Lakers were good and everybody loved them and when they weren't, nobody would show up. This team wants to win because we understand what it means in L.A."

A Galaxy victory would give Los Angeles its first major sports professional championship since the Galaxy accomplished the feat in 2002, the last great year for L.A. sports. The Lakers won their third consecutive NBA Finals; the then-Anaheim Angels, a short drive from L.A., won the World Series and the Sparks won the WNBA title.

Since then, however, only USC's success in college football has kept the city from starving.

Now, the Galaxy can help the city recapture some of its glory.

"There is something there for us to grab and we need to grab it," Donovan said. "There are not a lot of other successful teams in L.A. right now so we have the opportunity to grab the limelight."

LAKERS ANYBODY?: If the Galaxy win, the players could receive a Lakers-related windfall. Galaxy players will each reportedly receive season tickets to the Los Angeles Lakers. Anschutz Entertainment Group, who own the Galaxy, also owns Staples Center, where the Lakers reside.

Players said that the rumor surfaced once the Galaxy won the U.S. Open Cup, but some said that might have been the champagne talking.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said.

But team officials have said that the offer stands.

"That's been something thrown into the pot," Vagenas said. "I'm holding people to that."

Vagenas joked that a victory could mean more than just season seats.

"We actually get the entire Staples Center," he said. "They're actually going to rename the Staples Center the Vagenas Center."

Galaxy players were already guests at a Staples Center event. Players were honorary guests during a Los Angeles Kings hockey game recently.

Luis Bueno is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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