Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago vs. LA Galaxy
OTF’s Jon Denham hopes the Men In Red can remain focused during a busy time, while Josh Guesman brings the intel on los Galacticos…
There’s so much going on. The Champions League crowned a winner. World Cup tune up matches are in full swing. The league’s all-time goalscorer is coming to town. We’ve learned the Fire’s first U.S. Open Cup opponent of 2014. Will DaMarcus Beasley return to the Fire after the Americans are knocked out of the World Cup? Our very own league MVP is hurt. In perhaps less important news, did you see his tweet? The one directed at Klinsmann’s kid in the aftermath of Landon’s goals?
That said, for now, let’s try to stay focused on the Galaxy, folks. They manhandled a sloppy Philadelphia side last week. Sure, Bruce Arena and company are below the playoff line right now, but that recent outburst puts their goal differential better than four of the current playoff teams in the West.
The Toyota Park training room is as busy as its been all season, and more changes along the back line are imminent for Chicago as they continue to leak goals. Fans and coaches alike are wondering if Patrick Ianni can learn from his mistakes to ensure Baky Soumare doesn’t get off the bench. An ugly-looking game is a strong possibility this weekend.
At the very least, let’s take this opportunity to learn from our opponents. LA is a club from a major city with DPs who make a difference. Moreover, they’ve got numrous stars above the crest on their kits. Whatever professional drive Mike Magee has in him, it was welcomed and allowed to grow during his time in Los Angeles. Certainly, Magee certainly knows what it takes to reach the highest level of team success in Major League Soccer, but does he have enough time left in his career to help make it so, again, in Chicago?
So when we’re not (over)analyzing the match on Sunday, let’s take a step back and take something else away from our annual interaction with Los Angeles — an example to strive towards. Regardless of the result, there is something to be gained on Sunday. You’ll see it in the Magic One’s body language when he chats with Landon Donovan. He’s learning how to lead, and the entire club should probably do the same.
How They Stand in the East
Oh, hey there June! Time to begin our weekly look at the Eastern Conference standings.
Games played: 11
Points: 12 (Four behind a playoff spot)
Points Per Game: 1.09
Where do we start with this table? How about at the bottom, if only to point out Frank Klopas’s squad is struggling to the tune of a -13 goal differential. Toronto has lined up an East-low nine times, so their 13 points don’t feel nearly as harsh as the Fire’s 12. New York is certainly right there in the hunt too.
Currently residing above the red line are first place New England (!), along with last year’s doormats D.C. United, and a Crew side who took all three points from the Fire a week ago in Ohio. Houston and their -8 goal differential are hanging out in fourth with a league-high 14 games played, and of course, there’s Screamin’ Pete and his boys in powder blue.
Tactics, Lineup, & Injuries
The injury list continues to be an issue for the Fire heading into the month of June. Mike Magee (calf) was not among the matchday 18 in Columbus, and it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to return with regularity soon. Patrick Nyarko’s injuries now include both legs. Alex still isn’t at 100%.
So now, where does Frank Yallop turn? One option (below) is to turn to Harry Shipp up top and let young Grant Ward make the most of his loan.
On the attack, Quincy Amarikwa and Shipp could do some real damage if they force a few turnovers in bad spots. Their decisions about how and where to steer the Fire attack from 90 yards in front of Sean Johnson will be critical.
In the midfield, width from Dilly Duka and Grant Ward will provide a brand new combination for the opposition to consider. Larentowicz is slotted into his holding MF spot, with Benji Joya in front of him most of the day.
Gonzalo Segares, bone spur and all, might as well be out there for a bit to try and slow things down. Greg Cochrane had his moments early on this season, but has been unable to shut down attacks from his side of the field lately. Ianni and Hurtado stay put, and hopefully Lovel Palmer is ready to go after suffering from kidney stones.
Simply put, this lineup will turn a helter-skelter performance into goals. They will also be on their heels for long stretches.
My bench: Reynish; Cochrane, Soumare; Watson, Ritter, Pineda; Anangonó
Prediction to ponder in the comments section below…
Chicago Fire (2), LA Galaxy (2)
Another draw at home. The Galaxy brace is courtesy of Robbie Keane, not Landon Donovan. Keane’s incisiveness doesn’t bode well for a Fire back line that hasn’t performed well enough for a shutout this season.
The home team heads to the locker room 1-1 after an equalizer from Harry Shipp. Shipp then helps the Fire rescue a point by finding Jeff Larentowicz on a corner kick.
My 2014 record: 3-8
Josh Guesman’s View from the Corner of the Galaxy
LA Galaxy found something special over the weekend, driven by Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane to a 4-1 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Union. Two goals and an assist from Landon, and one goal and two assists from Keane, saw to it that LA never had anything to sweat in this match.
Bruce Arena even brought Leonardo back into the game, after the center back had surgery on his finger just two weeks prior. Leo even scored a goal. No one expected that.
The Galaxy may have been gifted a pre World Cup run, as a very motivated Landon Donovan has energized this “motivationally challenged” team. Even with injuries to Todd Dunivant, James Riley, and Marcelo Sarvas, the Galaxy dominated Philadelphia.
Todd Dunivant and James Riley will be out for the Chicago game. Marcelo Sarvas declared himself fit for the game on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if Bruce Arena also judges the 60 minutes he got with LA Galaxy II, aka los Dos, is enough to earn a start or an appearance against the Fire. That said, don’t count Marcelo out.
The midfield pairing of Juninho and Walker seems to be developing, and Gyasi Zardes continues to improve his play on the outside. And while Arena has been flip-flopping starts for Ishizaki and Husidic, Sunday may be the time he pairs them together again.
While I wouldn’t expect the lineup to change drastically, Arena has many options at his fingertips. Kofi Opare in place of Tommy Meyer? Ishizaki in place of Zardes? Donovan and Keane still up top? All are possibilities as the Galaxy look to continue their winning streak.
OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, your go-to guy for t-shirts and promotional products at Envision Sports Designs, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging. Follow Jon @Denham_Jon
Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy
Sunday, June 1st at 3:00pm cst
Television: My50 Chicago, TWCSC Wisconsin
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago