PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Rookie Greg Vanney helped move the Los Angeles Galaxy within one victory of Major League Soccer's championship match.

Vanney, a former UCLA standout, scored in the 57th minute Thursday night, giving the Galaxy a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Wiz in the opening game of the MLS's Western Conference final in front of an announced crowd of 25,212 at the Rose Bowl.

Vanney, who scored only four goals during the regular season, took a left-footed shot from about 25 yards away that eluded goalkeeper Garth Lagerwey and went into the left corner of the net.

``I wasn't really surprised that it went in, I was more surprised they didn't close me down,'' Vanney said. ``When the ball first came out, my touch was to my right foot. I figured I wouldn't have enough time to cut in back to my left and set myself up to shoot, but I did.

``I've hit some shots from there and been close, but this one just happened to go in.''

The regular-season Western Conference-champion Galaxy can advance to MLS Cup '96 with a victory Sunday in Game 2 of the best-of-3 series in Kansas City. Los Angeles lost both of its regular-season matches at Arrowhead Stadium.

If a third game is necessary, it will be played next Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.

Following a scoreless first half, Chris Armas gave the Galaxy a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute. Midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos' cross into the middle of the penalty area went off Kansas City midfielder Matt McKeon's head to Armas, just inside the penalty area.

Kansas City, which had a 12th-minute goal by Digital Takawira nullified by an offsides call, tied the score in the 52nd minute when Preki dribbled past midfielder Jorge Salcedo and shot from the top of the penalty area.

The Galaxy outshot the Wiz 14-11, and led 8-7 in shots on goal. Lagerwey and Los Angeles goalkeeper Jorge Campos each made five saves.

``I thought we played real well,'' Los Angeles defender and captain Dan Calichman said. ``We scored the goal, had a little bit of a letdown, and it was 1-1. But we reacted well from that and kept playing, got the second goal and had a number of chances to get a third, fourth or fifth goal, but it just didn't happen.''

Kansas City coach Ron Newman said he felt the turning point was when referee Brian Hall did not give Cienfuegos a red card for pulling down McKeon and awarding Kansas City a penalty kick.

``Cienfuegos should have been off the field and gone,'' Newman said. ``He would have missed the rest of this game and wouldn't be able to play Sunday. That would have been a big blow for them.

``It was a professional foul. Cienfuegos was the last man. It's a rule passed by FIFA, the sport's international governing body, not the MLS.''

The Galaxy played the first half without Eduardo Hurtado, its leading scorer. Coach Lothar Osiander had said Hurtado would not start the match because he felt Hurtado would be tired after playing for Ecuador in a World Cup qualifying match against Colombia in Quito, Ecuador on Wednesday.

Hurtado, who had flown from Ecuador to Miami to Los Angeles on Thursday, entered Thursday night's match at the start of the second half and took his only shot in the 73rd minute.