The Fire and the heat very nearly beat LA Galaxy on a sweltering afternoon in Chicago.
After a frustrating 45 minutes that saw Chicago pressing the Galaxy further and further into their own half of the field, LA regained at least some their footing in the second half. A questionable PK in the 68th minute put the home team up by one — but only six minutes later Robbie Rogers sent a smart assist across the mouth of Chicago’s goal to Landon Donovan, who tied it up for a final tally of 1-1.
Ninety-one degrees and humid must be LA’s boiling point, because the Angelenos’ speed and movement were noticeably hampered by the heat. Chicago took advantage and showed well throughout the first half, although the men in red couldn’t quite find an early goal.
Robbie Keane, in particular, had some choice words concerning the MLS scheduling:
“I don’t know who makes these f*cking stupid decisions. Play a f*cking game at three o’clock in the afternoon. Who wants to watch that crap? Do you? I don’t want to watch that crap. These people who haven’t got a clue about soccer make these decisions when we play a game. […] Everyone was affected by the heat. Why would you want to play at three o’clock in the afternoon?”
Severe conditions were also to blame for multiple injury substitutions. Both Dan Gargan and Juninho left the field with cramps and general exhaustion, replaced by Robbie Rogers – who saw his first minutes at right back – and Marcelo Sarvas, finally back from injury.
The Rogers substitution was especially gut-wrenching for fans: it’s a sure sign of just how shallow the Galaxy’s bench is when it comes to defense. Rogers has seen time at left back for LA Galaxy II but it’s definitely an unfamiliar position for him. And losing Gargan, who has been so impactful for LA, made the situation seem all the more dire.
But Robbie Rogers had himself a game. He didn’t hesitate to get involved in the attack, and made a strong case toward earning more minutes in games to come.
It was Rogers who pushed past a Chicago defender and sent a sharp ball to the far post, where Landon Donovan continued to feed his newfound hunger for goals by burying it in the net. That tally saved LA from what would’ve been an embarrassing loss to a low-ranked team. Robbie was humble when asked about his performance:
“It’s one assist in one game. It’s a lot of work that I have ahead of me this season so it’s a positive to contribute in that way and to help defensively but there’s a lot of work to be done.”
The Galaxy’s movement through the midfield was uninspired at best, and that’s before the heat took its toll. Even the return of Sarvas couldn’t energize the squad, who resorted to through balls and attempting to outrun their opponents.
LA’s midfield is proving a tough nut to crack. Bruce Arena hasn’t played the same starting lineup in seven games — and unless he’s comfortable blaming today’s lackluster showing on the conditions, I expect yet another new look for the team come next weekend.
“We’ll take the point and get out of Chicago.”
A point on the road is certainly better than nothing, but I’d be surprised if LA Galaxy wasn’t hoping for more. The Galaxy return to LA on Sunday, when they’ll face off against hometown rivals Chivas USA.