Preview: LA at Chicago
Chicago Fire (6-7-6, fifth in Eastern Conference) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (13-5-4, first in West)
All-time record: Series tied 15-15-3
Saturday’s match is a crucial one for both teams, albeit for different reasons. Chicago, five points behind San Jose for the eighth and final playoff spot, need a win to keep their postseason hopes alive. First-place LA don’t share the same concern – their playoff odds are good – but they’ll be looking to play well and put an end to a two-game losing streak.
The Fire will be missing two of their most important attackers in Freddie Ljungberg (yellow-card suspension) and Marco Pappa (international duty) this weekend. Despite that fact, they remain confident they’ll be able to push forward successfully against the Galaxy – against whom they scored three goals in a 3-2 win on Aug. 1 at the Home Depot Center.
“We’re going to lose a lot [without Ljungberg and Pappa],” Fire winger Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “But there are a lot of guys on this team that can step in and get the job done.”
Los Angeles Galaxy
LA come to Toyota Park with revenge on their minds. The Galaxy were embarrassed by the Fire in the teams’ first meeting – conceding three goals in the first 20 minutes in last month’s loss.
If they are to avenge that defeat, the Galaxy back four will have to improve. They have conceded 11 goals in their last 7 games, after conceding just 5 goals in their first 15 matches. Veteran Gregg Berhalter's absence has been a key to the recent slide, and although he trained lightly this week, he did not travel with the team to Chicago for the match.
Heroes & Villains
Landon Donovan vs. Logan Pause: Edson Buddle may have more goals, but Donovan remains the key to LA’s offense. American soccer’s poster boy runs the Galaxy attack with speed and precision, creating problems for opposing defenses all across the league.
Fire defensive midfielder Pause should see a lot of Donovan – who often drifts into the center of the midfield – and he’ll have to keep the Galaxy’s playmaker in check for the Fire to get a win. Expect Pause to play Donovan tightly and physically come Saturday afternoon.
Stat that makes you go “Hm...”
The Galaxy have not won a game this year after conceding the first goal.
Keys to the Game
- Press the Galaxy early, taking advantage of a potential lack of confidence.
- Don't let Donovan and Buddle get in a rhythm. Keep them rattled and LA don't take flight.
- Weather the early storm; don't allow Chicago to take a quick lead.
- Attack down the middle – use Donovan's speed against slow Chicago center back C.J. Brown.
OUT: DF Dasan Robinson (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF John Thorrington (R ankle contusion); MF Freddie Ljungberg (L calcaneal contusion)
OUT: MF David Beckham (L Achilles tendon surgery); QUESTIONABLE: DF Gregg Berhalter (viral complications)