It might not have been the prettiest performance from the Galaxy this season, but considering the way things unfolded this past Monday, it was a hard earned point for LA. To echo the words of captain Landon Donovan, “this team is fortunate enough to be able to not always play its best, but still earn something from the match.” Beginning the game without either of the first choice goalkeepers, and to then lose not one, but two central defenders during the game and still not lose is a big accomplishment. But I can’t help and wonder how many times the Galaxy will be able to get away with that type of performance in the final 14 regular season games?
It was this very same spot on the page last week that I wrote about Josh Saunders and what went down with Steven Lenhart in the game against San Jose. So why not continue with the goalkeeper chatter, and praise Brian Perk following his MLS debut? I mentioned “Perkie” in this column last week and told you that Galaxy fans should feel comfortable with the former Bruin in the net. The Galaxy keeper lived up to every word of that sentence by getting his gloves on a Fredy Montero penalty kick to keep the game scoreless in the first half.
Bruce Arena’s team will now turn their attention to the Chicago Fire, in hopes of keeping the current unbeaten run in tact. Right now LA has gone 11 games without a defeat in MLS play, while the Fire come in on a run of eight matches without a loss. Something tells me that one of these streaks will come to an end on Saturday. The Fire have a league-high 12 draws this season, but I do not envision unlucky 13 coming this week at The HDC.
Like the Galaxy, Chicago has figured out a way to become a solid defensive club since Frank Klopas took control of the team in late May. The Fire have surrendered just three goals in seven matches under Klopas after giving up 19 in their first 11 games of the year under Carlos de los Cobos. Sean Johnson has come back in to claim the No. 1 goalkeeper spot for the team, and the partnership at center back between Cory Gibbs and Yamith Cuesta has developed into a good one. Costa Rican Gonzalo Segares has been the most consistent performer for Chicago, starting all 18 games this season. Rookie Jalil Anibaba, the final piece of the back four is in line to make his sixth straight start this week.
At the attacking end Chicago’s biggest weapon is speed. Both Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro can fly. Nyarko plays out wide and likes to get matched up one on one with defenders, while Oduro has the ability to get in behind defenders to catch up to through balls. Opposite Nyarko is Marco Pappa at the other wide midfield spot. The Guatemalan International is tied with Oduro for the team lead in goals with five. While Pappa is very technical with the ball, his biggest threat might come in delivering the ball from set piece opportunities. The good news for the Galaxy is that Chicago has scored the fewest set piece goals in MLS this year with just three of their 19 goals coming off set pieces.
It looks like LA will once again be unable to field a true first choice starting XI due to injuries. Expect Josh Saunders to get the nod back in goal, but with the facial trauma injury to A.J. DeLaGarza keeping him out of training this week, Bruce Arena will have to look to the veteran Gregg Berhalter to come in. Berhalter was excellent against San Jose in a starting role a couple of weeks ago, but the speed factor that the Fire brings will be a much tougher test. For those wondering if David Beckham is healthy enough to get the start, my guess is yes. Beckham looked good at training this week, and even stated after practice that he felt “strong enough to start a match.” The last part of the puzzle will be Landon Donovan taking over the game. Donovan hasn’t scored in the run of play in almost two months, granted some of that drought is due to being away with the U.S. National Team last month. The Galaxy captain did say this week that for the team to improve on some of the recent sluggish performances, it starts with him and his energy during the game. LA will need a lot of that energy to extinguish the Fire come Saturday night in Carson.
The Galaxy take on the Chicago Fire tonight at 7:30 p.m. at The Home Depot Center in a match broadcast nationally on Fox Soccer Channel. Tickets are still available for as low as $25! BUY NOW