View from the Booth: Chicago Challenge Awaits

Mark Rogondino provides his analysis of the Galaxy and Fire ahead of tomorrow's match

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It
is hard to point to one specific factor that has changed causing the Galaxy to
come back to the rest of the league in the month of July.  I guess I understand why they are called the
“dog days of summer”.  The month of July
alone has dragged on like a thirsty dog’s long tongue hanging out on the way to
the water dish! 

The
inconsistent form the Galaxy have displayed throughout the month of July makes
you wonder which team to expect to show up at The HDC come Sunday
afternoon. 

After
setting the league ablaze in the first four months, the Galaxy have surrendered
goals, failed to score at the same pace they displayed early in the year, and
now have all but been bounced from the CONCACAF Champions League.  Yes this team is still nine points clear of
RSL in the West, but if LA does not find its rhythm soon, they are likely to be
the team trying to “fetch” points in the final weeks of the year.

The
Chicago Fire arrive in town fresh off of being knocked out of Superliga and
have not played a league game since July 8. 
Even further the Fire have not won an MLS game in over a month.  So one might think that based on the recent
form of the team from the Windy
City that the Galaxy should be
primed to win on Sunday? 

Not
so fast.  Chicago
is one of two teams in the league that has played just 14 games, meaning there
is still a very large chunk of the year in front of the Fire.  The team added Mexican International, Nery
Castillo as a DP (through he probably won’t be with the team this week) and now
have traded to bring Freddie Ljungberg over from Seattle
to bolster the line-up.  With players
like Brian McBride, Marco Pappa and youngster Patrick Nyarko already part of
the nucleus, all of a sudden the Fire go from a team that was going to fight
for a playoff spot, to a team that should challenge for the top spot in the
East. 

Bottom
line is that Chicago is a hungry and dangerous
team coming into this game.

Using
the same logic to look at the Galaxy have me thinking that after their midweek
performance, as bad as it was, LA will come out with great energy looking to
make a statement to the rest of MLS.

There
is no time like the present to get things in order, and it starts with playing
well in the first 15 minutes of the game. 
LA has not recorded a shutout in an MLS game, since the last week of
June, a 0-0 game at BMO Field.  In their
last MLS contest, it took a whole two minutes for the Earthquakes to take the
lead, and if not for a late strike from Landon Donovan, the Galaxy would have
walked away with nothing for the first time in a league game this year.  For a team that was incredibly solid
defensively through the first half of the season, I know I am not the only one
wondering what has changed.  Whatever
“it” is, the Galaxy needs to remedy it in a hurry.  Ricketts and Co.
are due for a strong performance.    

Offensively
the Galaxy is fine.  Even in the recent
4-1 loss to Puerto Rico the Galaxy had the
majority of the possession, quality chances around the goal, but just failed to
finish them.  I expect that will change
against the Fire.  Teams are doing a good
job of forcing the Galaxy to find new names to put on the scoring sheet.  Edson Buddle is going to face a tough
one-on-one battle with Fire defender Wilman Conde.  The Colombian has the physical tools to stay
with Edson all night, which tells me there will be an opportunity for another
forward to find some space.  If it is
indeed Alan Gordon starting along side Buddle
up front, like the Galaxy, Gordon is due for a breakout game. 

Lastly,
let’s talk about Captain Landon Donovan. 
Donovan continues to perform at an MVP rate and LA is going to need
every bit of it.  My one major concern
would be that Landon has played so much soccer over the last year that you
can’t help but think it will be tough for him to maintain that level.  If anyone can do it though, it is
Landon.  I am sticking with my claim that
the Galaxy captain will get to double digit goals for the year. He’s only got
three right now, but two he has scored in each of his last two league games and
looks to be finding his scoring touch. As if opposing defenders didn’t have
enough to worry about with his ability to create goals, he now seems to be
scoring them for fun, making him that much more dangerous.

Quick Hits –

In
this same spot on the page before last week’s game against San
Jose, I was raving about the play of Sean Franklin.  Franklin
continues to play well, but I think he has to play at right back.  He can still get forward from that spot, but
his contributions to the defense are huge. 
Plus, then you can continue to use rookie, Michael Stephens in the
midfield leading to better possession in the middle part of the pitch.

Donovan
Ricketts needs a shutout in a bad way.  
Ricketts has been stuck on nine for quite a while and recording #10 on
Sunday might be the catalyst for the Galaxy to get back on track for the final
third of the year.

Quietly
Todd Dunivant has been one of the most consistent players for LA this
year.  He leads the team in minutes
played and has been steady as they come on the left side of the defense.  Maybe it is coincidence, but Dunivant did not
play against Puerto Rico and the team gave up
4 goals.  Having #2 back in the line-up
will be a welcome sight.