Preview: LA Galaxy vs Chicago Fire

The Basics

Los Angeles Galaxy (13-2-3, 40 points, 1st place in Western Conference) vs. Chicago Fire (4-4-5, 4th place in Eastern Conference)

All-Time Record: LA Galaxy lead all-time series at 15-14-3

TV Info

Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Español

Radio Info

KTLK 1150 AM, 1330 AM (ESPN Deportes)

Intro

This game might seem to be more important for Chicago, as the Fire are within striking distance of third-place Toronto FC while the Galaxy have a stranglehold on the Western Conference table. However, the Galaxy are coming off their worst loss of 2010 and need to restore confidence quickly, or the club's recent sour stretch could worsen.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Remember when the Galaxy used to dominate opponents with a suffocating defense? March, April, May and June were fantastic months for the Galaxy, but July was easily the club's worst stretch. Capping off a 2-3-1 month was a 4-1 shellacking by Puerto Rico Islanders, at Home Depot Center, no less.

The Galaxy must bounce back against Chicago or confidence could go from bad to worse; after all, the Galaxy's next two opponents are Puerto Rico in Bayamón and Real Madrid in Pasadena.

Chicago Fire

The Fire had hoped to debut their newest big signing, Nery Castillo, at this game, but Chicago's new DP will not be traveling. Instead, Sunday will be the big debut of Chicago's other big new acquisition, Freddie Ljungberg, whom the Fire acquired in a trade with Seattle on Friday. Regardless, Castillo, Ljungberg, whoever, the Fire still need points.

Aside from their 1-0 win over Pumas in their final SuperLiga group-stage game (Chicago were already eliminated), Carlos de los Cobos' men dropped their previous five games in a row in SuperLiga, league play and US Open Cup. As they try to integrate their new players, they must figure out a way to stop the bleeding. They are a team in flux and badly need to right the ship.

“It’s the biggest game of the year,” said winger Patrick Nyarko. "We just need to worry about ourselves and prepare ourselves mentally. We know we’re a good team. On any day, we can beat anyone if we play that total 90-minute game we know we can play.”

Heroes & Villains

Landon Donovan vs. Wilman Conde: If anyone is going to key the Galaxy's resurgence, it will be Landon Donovan. Sure, the Galaxy's recent skid has been due to defensive issues, but Donovan is the key figure on the club and sets the tone on the field for all of his teammates. Conde could cause the Galaxy's confidence to tumble if he takes Donovan out of the game.

Stat that makes you go "Hmmm..."

The Galaxy have three of the top five league leaders in minutes played, including league-leader Todd Dunivant, who was taken out of the Galaxy's last league match in the 77th minute and missed his first action of the season in the process.