LA stars frustrated in loss

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The Independent Online

Robin Fraser tumbled in the corner of the field, grabbing his collarbone in pain. Suddenly, the Los Angeles Galaxy had lost the Major League Soccer defender of the year.

Robin Fraser tumbled in the corner of the field, grabbing his collarbone in pain. Suddenly, the Los Angeles Galaxy had lost the Major League Soccer defender of the year.

"There's no way I envisioned it, that's for sure," he said after leaving in the ninth minute of Sunday's MLS championship game.

Kevin Hartman fumbled with an oddly bouncing ball in front of his net and kicked it right to DC United's Ben Olsen. That misplay by the MLS goalkeeper of the year led to a critical goal.

"I feel like I stole money from my teammates and stole money from the fans," Hartman said.

With two of their best players below par or playing just a few minutes, the Galaxy became the latest victim of the United dynasty as DC won 2-0 for its third title in the league's four years.

Fraser sustained a broken left collarbone and Hartman had a bruised ego.

The injury occurred as Fraser, the Galaxy captain, and DC's Roy Lassiter chased a ball to the corner.

"I beat him to the ball and got pushed from behind and there was no call," Fraser said. "It was a foul."

But none was called. Steve Jolley, who started 21 regular-season games, replaced Fraser, and the Galaxy realigned its defense, switching to a three-man line with Paul Caligiuri as sweeper rather than playing four across.

"It's a matter of almost totally having to relearn how to play the game," Hartman said of the tactical changes.

But Fraser downplayed his absence.

"Our team is a solid team all around," he said. "No one player is going to make a difference."

United coach Thomas Rongen said the loss of Fraser didn't change his strategy much.

"We don't alter our game plan very often," he said. "We play our game regardless of who's on the other side of the ball."

With Fraser gone from the league's top defense, an added burden fell on Hartman. He made a sprawling save on Lassiter's shot, but Jaime Moreno converted the rebound in the 19th minute.

Then, during extra time in the first half, Hartman made a save and tried to dribble around Lassiter. Then, as he attempted to clear the ball, his right foot took a divot out of the hard ground in front of the net.

The ball trickled to Olsen, who scored easily.

"I went to take a chop out into space and the ball bounced up on me" as Lassiter closed in, Hartman said. "The field was terrible.

"I'm not going to blame it all on that. It was unfortunate. I got my foot caught in the ground."

In the second half, he played more like the goalkeeper who set a league record this season with 11 shutouts while playing all but 10 minutes of the 32-game regular season. His goals against average was just 0.91.

"How can I fault Kevin at this stage?" Los Angeles coach Sigi Schmid said. "He helped get us where we're at."

Still, Hartman blamed himself.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I let a lot of people down."

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