The LA Galaxy Bring a Midweek Westerly to the Windy City
Four days since their 1-0 loss to the eastern conference leaders at Yankee Stadium, LA Galaxy (9-11-4) play the ultimate MLS underdogs, Chicago Fire (5-7-11), at Toyota Park in a midweek contest in their second road-game before heading back to the StubHub Center for their Saturday match against the Whitecaps. This is the only time the two teams meet in the regular season and with the Fire coming home after their first away win in 36 games, and their first league win since July 13, the home team’s fans are understandably thirsty for more. Fire fans will also be anxious to seek revenge against LA’s Mike Magee and Jeff Larentowicz, both making their first appearances in Toyota Park since their departures.
After the timid display that LA Galaxy put on against NYCFC, Bruce Arena and many players made it clear the constrained 110 yards by 70 yards of hallowed baseball field was not the reason for the 0-1 loss that ended their convincing undefeated streak at 9 games, providing fodder for critics who point to their consecutive 3-game draws as a better indicator as the playoff season looms on the horizon. “Well, there wasn’t a whole lot of quality to our passing in the last third today,” Bruce Arena continues, “but those chances, they’re not going to come that often…The couple of chances we get, we have to put one in the back of the net. That’s the name of the game. The conditions were tough for both teams, and that’s that.” An underwhelming one shot on goal, compared to NYC’s 7, punctuates the neccessity of finishing those limited chances (or, in Saturday’s case, the single chance). But one undervalued highlight of last weekend was Clement Diop’s brave performance in his first MLS start, stepping up to fill Brian Rowe’s shoes to help keep NYC at bay after their uncalled offside goal.
Last weekend’s MLS action brought heated matches between Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver, leaving the Galaxy stuck in a familiar spot hovering around 5th place, with a competitive Timbers 6 points behind and a resurging Seattle looking more menacing since Sigi Schmidt’s departure and the arrival of Nicolás Lodeiro. With just one more midweek game remaining for LA after today, a decisive 3-points against Chicago is not optional.
“This is very important,” midfielder Nigel de Jong told LAGalaxy.com. “We’ve got 10 games left to go, and we haven’t won in a while. It’d be good for our confidence to get this victory on the road before we get back to L.A.”
Chicago are fighting for a way back into playoff positioning and are just six points from the last coveted spot with 11 matches to go. Meanwhile, LA’s track record when conceding the first goal (3-3-6) is concerning, especially in away matches where they eek out a decent but not outstanding 3-4-5 record. Whereas the final third has disappointed Galaxy fans this summer, on the positive spectrum lies LA’s still impressive defense, allowing just 7 goals in their past 10 league matches. The majority of LA’s lineup is healthy, their +14 goal differential is the highest and their 24 goals allowed are second best in the league. The hesitation and indecisiveness in finishing their chances has cost LA easy points this summer. Robbie Keane’s orbital fracture, though physically imperceptible, may have reared its ugly head as lost confidence in front of the goal, but the fact remains he’s LA’s leadership and goal winner, notching 7 in 12 matches this season. Often proclaimed as MLS’ top international signing, now playing in his fifth year, he’s pushing to lift his team to challenge for a sixth MLS Cup, their fourth in the past 6 years.
GAME INFO: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 – 5:30 pm PT (TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes)