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Chicago draw could turn LA’s season around

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CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Eddie Lewis looked up at the Toyota Park scoreboard in Bridgeview, Ill., last Saturday afternoon and didn’t like what he saw. The Chicago Fire had just taken a 1-0 lead and there were only two minutes left in regulation.

Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez was even more depressed. He had been called for a foul by referee Mark Geiger that allowed the Fire’s Collins John to score the go-ahead goal on a perfectly placed free kick from 20 yards out.

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was thinking his team shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. The Fire had been playing with 10 men for most of the match and Landon Donovan had missed two excellent scoring chances, including a first half penalty kick.

But the Galaxy, showing the resiliency that had been their trademark a year ago, responded with a goal by Gonzalez in the first minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw that could turn out to be one of their most important results of the season.

Arena was asked Tuesday about how a loss to Chicago might have affected his team’s psyche, especially during a stretch in which the club had gone 3-5-3 after a 10-0-2 start.

“You’d kill yourself thinking about that stuff. Why would we be thinking about something that didn’t happen?” he said. “Who’s denying the fact if we had lost that game it wouldn’t be disappointing? We didn’t.

“I’m not going to worry about what didn’t happen.”

Gonzalez, who scored his second goal of the season by out-jumping Fire defender Wilman Conde and heading Donovan’s perfectly-placed corner kick past Sean Johnson, said the result was a good indicator of the character of this year’s team.

“I’m just happy we didn’t shut down,” he said. “We just put the ball down and started getting after them right away. I think that shows a lot of character. We have a lot of fighters on this team.”

Gonzalez admitted he was thinking the worst after John’s free kick found the Galaxy net.

“For sure,” he said. “What hurt is I was called for the foul. I was pretty bummed, but I forgot about it right away and I was looking forward to the next play.

“I just wanted to be on top of my game so I could get on that header.”

Gonzalez said there are a number of comparisons to the resolve of this year’s club to 2009. Last year, for example, the Galaxy scored 10 goals in the 80th minute on, and six of them resulted in either a tie or victory.

“It just shows we have the same fight and character as we did last year,” he said. “We made more of an effort to not come from behind this year and start winning right away. If we get down, we know how to come back.”

Midfielder Eddie Lewis, who came on for Alex Cazumba in the 71st minute against Chicago, said Saturday’s result was a carryover from a year ago.

“In many ways it is,” he said. “We haven’t been put in that position as many times, but that fighting spirit certainly was one of the characteristics we talked about maintaining this year, because at some point we’re going to need it.

“The first half of the season was quite comfortable for us. That sort of resilience and attitude and fight will be necessary as we come into the stretch here.”

Lewis also said last weekend’s result is just what the Galaxy needed to prepare for Saturday’s crucial clash with the Columbus Crew at The Home Depot Center. The Crew and Galaxy are in the thick of the race for the Supporters Shield, which goes to the team with the best record in MLS.

“Regardless, this game is going to be massive,” he said. “For us it’s about re-establishing our record and remaining the points leader and all the rest. Either way there’s a lot of pressure put on this game.

“We’ll continue to build off last weekend’s performance and hopefully carry it on and get one better this weekend.”