No, it is not time to hit the panic button, but there is certainly cause for concern, Galaxy fans.
LA have now come away with two points from their last two games, scoring a single goal during that time. Further, the Galaxy have yet to score more than one goal in a game this season. One might argue that this team still has lost only one game, and it came against maybe the best team in the league right now. Yet, there is still something missing from the Galaxy right now, and it is not just Landon Donovan.
From the six matches so far this year LA has played, there has been one solid half of play to point to. That was the first 45 minutes against the Union two weeks ago, which helped LA take a 1-0 lead into the break. Yes, there have been other factors like weather and red cards that have contributed, but those are variables that all teams have to deal with. I expected this group of players to be further along at this point in the year. It would be one thing if the team was playing really well, and then having some bad bounces of the ball. But there has not been great soccer, and the number of chances the Galaxy has created around the opponent’s goal has been few and far between. There is talent all over the field, and yet LA is coming off two draws against teams that were nowhere close to the playoffs a year ago in MLS. You can say that this is a new year, but I would counter with, “these are teams the Galaxy should beat.”
And now the mountain just got a little steeper as the club prepares for the Chicago Fire. Already without captain Landon Donovan (due to inflammation in his right knee), the midfield will now have to survive without the starting central pairing of David Beckham (yellow card accumulation) and Juninho (red card) as well as Jovan Kirovski, who had an extra game added to his suspension for being sent off against D.C. on last Saturday. I have brought up the depth on the Galaxy roster on a couple of the broadcasts this year, but never did I think that it would be tested in this manner and this early in the year. Maybe if one of the three names above would be out of the line up I wouldn’t be worried, but Beckham, Donovan and Juninho are all surefire starters on this team and now all three will be watching this game from back in Southern California.
My best guess is that Chris Birchall will return to the lineup in the middle, but there is a question mark next to him. I also expect Paolo Cardozo to get a look in the starting lineup as well, with Sean Franklin remaining in the midfield. No question we will learn how this team can adapt on the fly with yet another curve ball thrown at them.
Looking at Chicago, this is a much different group of players than the team LA saw last year, when they tallied a win and draw in two games against the Galaxy. There are still some good players from wide positions like Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko, but the Fire have added some South American talent in the Uruguayan tandem of Diego Chavez and Gaston Puerari up front. Both are still adapting to the pace and physicality of MLS. At the defensive end, head coach Carlos de los Cobos has brought in former U.S. National Team veteran Cory Gibbs to partner with Desan Robinson. Costa Rican International Gonzalo Segares is always a threat to make runs forward from the left back spot. In goal, Sean Johnson is a young goalkeeper with a ton of potential. However, Johnson along with his Fire teammates is coming off a poor showing that saw them surrender four goals to Portland on Thursday night, so expect a much better defensive effort right from the opening whistle from this group.