T-180 minutes to kickoff: Man, what the heck just happened on Tuesday? Bruce Arena must have rounded up a bunch of imposters posing as the Los Angeles Galaxy to go out on Tuesday at the Home Depot Center against the Puerto Rico Islanders. The lack of form could be a problem this afternoon against the Chicago Fire.
T-170: I almost typed "Chicago Red Stars" by mistake on the previous paragraph. That's WPS. I am used to writing that phrase rather than "Chicago Fire" because I first got my big break on Bleacher Report writing on Women's Professional Soccer. (And how about FC Gold Pride? They are running away with the regular season crown right about now.)
T-160: The Los Angeles Galaxy are still at the top of the 2010 Major League Soccer standings, but they sure aren't playing like they deserve to be at the top, having had a string of poor performances in the past several matches. You know, this was the dry spell that I was hinting at in my preview of the D.C. United contest, and whether or not the Galaxy will snap out of their funk starting today remains to be seen.
T-150: The Chicago Fire are not out of a playoff spot by any stretch of the imagination. They have a number of matches in hand over the Galaxy, and wins in all of them will put them in the hunt for the playoffs. Currently, Chicago has a 4-5-5 record (17 points).
T-140: This little history lesson on the Fire is brought to you by Yours Truly Incorporated, unofficial sponsor of the View from Victoria Street.
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club is an American professional soccer club based in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Illinois that participates in Major League Soccer. The team was founded on October 8, 1997, on the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the event in fact gave the team its name.
In 1998, their inaugural league season, the Fire won the MLS Cup as well as the U.S. Open Cup (the "double"). They have also won the 2000, 2003, and 2006 U.S. Open Cups.
T-130: The Fire feature a complete developmental system consisting of the Chicago Fire Premier (a Premier Development League team and a Super-20 League team), the Chicago Fire Development Academy, and the Chicago Fire Juniors youth teams. The club also administers a charitable community organization, the Chicago Fire Foundation (formerly the FireWorks for Kids Foundation).
The official club colors are red and white. Over its history, the Fire have also employed navy blue, sky blue, and black as alternate or accent colors.
T-120: A couple hours to kickoff at Victoria Street. Lineups:
Silviu Petrescu is our head match official today. Fabio Tovar and Adam Garner are the linesmen and Baldomero Toledo is our fourth official this afternoon.
T-110: There is something about the atmosphere at Toyota Park at Bridgeview which makes it one of a kind: allowing the stuff of tifosi that normally would not be allowed at the HDC, which is a drag.
Supporters groups and ultras groups occupy a standing area directly behind the north goal in the Harlem End of Toyota Park (Sections 117 and 118) that is referred to as Section 8. This term originates in the numbering of their section at Soldier Field, as well as the American military designation of soldiers declared mentally unfit.
Section 8 Chicago, the Independent Supporters' Association for the Fire, oversees the activities of the many groups. Though incorporating a variety of support styles from both Chicago and throughout the world, groups as part of Section 8 are allied and generally fall under the ultras' designation. The Section 8 Chicago ISA is also a non-profit organization recognized by the state of Illinois.
T-100: Aside from the supporters' groups, the club is well known for its stadium-wide vocal and visual support, particularly for matches of great competitive importance. Call-and-response cheering amongst the crowd is commonplace. Fans at Toyota Park for Fire matches periodically engage in acts of tifo to show their pride and inspire the players on the field, one of the few American environments to do so.
T-90: We are an hour and a half away from kickoff, and I wanted to go ahead and talk a little bit more about Toyota Park. This is a 20,000-seat facility located at 71st Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview. Toyota Park was developed at a cost of around $100 million and opened on June 11, 2006.
Toyota Park also hosts the Chicago Machine of Major League Lacrosse and the Chicago Red Stars of Women's Professional Soccer. Only the stadium's east end stands are used for these events.
The stadium hosted its first competitive international with a 2010 World Cup qualifying match on September 10, 2008 between USA and Trinidad and Tobago.
T-80: Designed to incorporate traditional stadium features from both American and European facilities, Toyota Park includes mostly covered seating, a brick facade and stone entry archway, and first rows that are less than three yards from the field. It also includes 42 executive suites, six larger party suites, the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame, and the Fire club offices, as well as a large stadium club/banquet room measuring over 9,000 square feet (840 m2).
T-70: A practice facility with two fields (one natural grass, one artificial turf) for the Fire club and its youth programs is adjacent to the stadium. The stadium's design is expandable to 30,000 seats without great cost for future growth. The natural grass stadium field includes a $1.7 million turf management system including full heating, drainage, and aeration capabilities and measures 120 yards (110 m) long by 75 yards (69 m) wide.
A permanent stage was incorporated into the stadium design to not only facilitate hosting concerts but also to be able to quickly change from stage configuration to soccer configuration and vice-versa. At Toyota Park, a typical conversion takes less than 18 hours to complete, and an additional 8,000 chairback seats can be accommodated on the field for concerts and other stage events.
I will be posting a play-by-play of the action from Toyota Park between these two sides on September 4.
T-60: An hour remaining to kickoff, and the hope here from the Galaxy camp is for a rebound to form. I personally can't wait to take a glimpse of the 2009-10 Real Madrid side on August 7.
Edson Buddle put the hellish month that was July in perspective. “It puts you in check,” Buddle said during training last week. “The game always does that to you when you get a little relaxed or you get a tough game or you lose at home. Those [tough stretches] kind of put things in perspective for you.
“You need that, especially at this time. It could have happened later on in the season, but to happen at midseason is probably a good thing.”
We'll see if Buddle's prognostication (which echoes my thoughts mentioned at T-160) is on the money.
T-50: In other MLS action, the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution drew 1-1, the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas also drew 1-1, the Houston Dynamo drew 2-2 with the New York Red Bulls, the Kansas City Wizards defeated Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake routed D.C. United 3-0, the Seattle Sounders shut out the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 and in the shocker of the week, Chivas USA took out the Columbus Crew 3-1.
T-45: Both teams go through warm-ups.
T-40: “It’s the biggest game of the year,” said Chicago Fire winger Patrick Nyarko on the match. "We just need to worry about ourselves and prepare ourselves mentally.
"We know we’re a good team. On any day, we can beat anyone if we play that total 90-minute game we know we can play.”
T-30: A half-hour to go. The Galaxy lead the all-time series at 15-14-3. The Fire acquired Freddie Ljungberg over the past week. I wonder how he will spice things up today. By the way, Nery Castillo is not playing today; heck, he's not on the bench, either. Oh well.
T-20: U.S. Army Pvt. Jair DeJesus Garcia was a brother of Los Angeles Riot Squad founder Eddie "Gunner" Garcia, and was killed in action two years ago in Afghanistan. Jair was a season ticket holder for the G's, and today marks the two-year anniversary of his death.
The View from Victoria Street offers its condolences, and my heart goes out to the Garcia family and the good friends from the Riot Squad.
T-15: The Fire will have added incentive to beat the Galaxy, as some sort of payback for their 2-1 semifinal exit in the Super-20 League semis on Saturday night in Rockford, Illinois at the hands of the Young G's.
Both teams conclude warm-ups. Some porristas from Cal State Dominguez Hills and the local high schools are on the premises. I personally prefer cheerleaders in shorts rather than skirts, but that's just me.
T-10: A few more tidbits to run you through here: Donovan needs one goal to earn his 100th in MLS. Will today be the day? You can only hope the Fire are foolish enough to force a penalty...
“You hear all this stuff about the best defense and the best defense, and maybe you start believing it,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter said prior to the match today. “And once you start believing it, you’re in trouble.
“You always need to work. You always need to want to improve and want to get better and that’s where we’re at right now. We have to go back to the drawing board and [figure out] what got us here, what made us successful, and then start finding some of that again.”
T-5: This is match No. 19 for the G's in league play, while it will be No. 15 for the Fire.
T-0: National anthem by Shar Jackson.
FIRST HALF START: 4:36 P.M. PT
1' - Let's get this started, shall we? And who will steal the chickens from Chicago, if applicable? Throw-in for the Galaxy. The Fire's Sean Johnson with the grab.
2' - The Big Cat from Montego Bay, Donovan Ricketts. Now back come the Galaxy. Now how did Edson Buddle botch that shot? Here they go again, running on kryptonite...
3' - Tristan Bowen should have done better. Here come the Fire. Omar Gonzalez on sweep duty.
4' - GOAL! Chicago Fire 16 Marco Pappa
What is going on with this team. Even with the full house they can't defend their way out of a wet paper bag. Pappa steals the chickens...
5' - GOAL! Chicago 15 Collins John
...with Collins John as his accomplice. And this is just unacceptable. Two goals in as many minutes? The Chicago Fire must have been looking at the tape from the Puerto Rico match, and must have seen some type of weakness in this side.
6' - Well ladies and gentlemen, the question now is
8' - That corner went nowhere, and fast. Buddle should have done better.
10' - Gregg Berhalter has to be kicking himself, but so should the Galaxy forwards. They are playing on kryptonite.
11' - Eleven minutes in and it's 2-0 Chicago. Terrible corner from Landon Donovan.
12' - Lousy shot from Birchall.
13' - Back come the G's. Not a smartly taken free kick.
14' - This forward attack from the G's continues to disappoint. I don't know who is playing a terrible game: the Galaxy forwards or the back line.
15' - Buddlvan connection was off on the timing.
16' - Too forward a ball. This side is living and dying by the long ball, and that's not going to work against these side.
Not again; they let Collins John get too much space in the middle.
18' - Omar Gonzales with the cleared chance by Patrick Nyarko.
19' - GOAL! Chicago Fire 18 Mike Banner
This is becoming a rout. And if you ask me, this team is going to be doomed on Wednesday.
21' - Corner for the Fire. I think we're gonna need a calculator by the time this game is over.
22' - You know, I feel bad for the fans here. They could use a refund a la Seattle.
23' - Here is Todd Dunivant. And Tristan Bowen gets carded for the sliding challenge.
Yellow card 17 Tristan Bowen
Los Angeles Galaxy
24' - Good dispossession by Krzystof Krol.
Poor shot from Edson Buddle, and that has been the epitome of the Galaxy attack today.
26' - Carlos De Los Cobos's Fire have figured this team out with this 4-5-1 formation, and they didn't even need Freddie Ljungberg or Nery Castillo here.
27' - 27 minutes in, and you are not in the Twilight Zone when reading this scoreline; it's 3-0 Chicago.
28' - Back come the Fire on the attack.
29' - Not a good feed from Birchall to Bowen, and that is easy pickings for Sean Johnson.
31' - Here's Dunivant with the throw-in. Lamentable shot from Omar Gonzalez.
32' - It's been a rough year for Chris Birchall, and he is shaken up.
33' - Sean Franklin setting things up, and Birchall is just not getting any room. Free kick to the Fire.
34' - There you go, Donovan Ricketts. Throw-in for the Fire's Dasan RObinson.
35' - Can these guys do anything right? Another blown finish for Buddle. I think that is in the running for "Blown Finish of the Century."
36' - And here comes a chance for Landon to earn Number 100...
Yellow card 14 Patrick Nyarko
37' - GOAL! Los Angeles Galaxy 10 Landon Donovan
...and there it is. But they have a long ways yet to go.
38' - Robinson is fouled and is shaken up.
40' - Donovan gave it a go from that angle, but the timing didn't seem to be there on the connections.
41' - The Galaxy midfielders need to use their feet as brooms.
42' - Solid tackle from Logan Pause. A textbook challenge on Tristan Bowen.
43' - Corner for the Galaxy. The Fire will need to crank up the defense for the rest of the match.
44' - Sean Johnson with the punchout. Back come the Fire, and now the backline will be scheduled to be chewed up in the change rooms at the break.
45' - How many minutes, Mr. Baldomero Toledo? Two minutes of stoppage time.
Yellow card 9 Jovan Kirovski
Los Angeles Galaxy
45 + 2' - Terrible header by Kirovski. We're heading to the break, and the fans are not liking this. 3-1, Chicago.
Chicago Fire 4
Los Angeles Galaxy 10
Shots on Goal
Chicago Fire 4
Los Angeles Galaxy 10
Chicago Fire 2
Los Angeles Galaxy 1
Chicago Fire 6
Los Angeles Galaxy 4
Chicago Fire 1
Los Angeles Galaxy 3
Chicago Fire 4
Los Angeles Galaxy 1
SECOND HALF START: 5:40 P.M. PT
46' - Halftime's over, time to go back to the grind. So far this match echoes the Puerto Rico match in a lot of ways. The Fire have taken a page out of the Islanders' playbook and struck with precision, using their team speed to break through the porous Galaxy back line.
Los Angeles will be searching for answers as we get this half underway. Sean Johnson resets for the Fire.
47' - Here's Sean Franklin, trying to get help from the midfielders. Foul on the Fire.
48' - Ambitious shot from Gonzalez.
49' - Back come the Fire. And Michael Stephens exhibits his frustration. Franklin's touches have been on par; can't say the same for the rest of the white shirts.
50' - That's Johnson's best save of the day. Not a lot of mustard on that hot dog for Buddle. He has been struggling as of late.
51' - Free kick for the Galaxy after the Krol foul. Donovan to take. And Sean Johnson can save that in his sleep. This is wonderful goalkeeping from the Chicago keeper.
53' - 53 minutes in, and it's 3-1 Chicago Fire here at the Home Depot Center.
54' - Yellow card 11 Chris Birchall
Los Angeles Galaxy
Substitution Los Angeles Galaxy
IN 8 Dema Kovalenko
OUT 11 Chris Birchall
55' - Petrescu, for the most part, is calling a good game. The Galaxy have been playing a poor game.
56' - It may be too soon to say, but we may be having an upset weekend of the worst kind: the top sides in both conferences falling.
57' - Michael Stephens, you have to take a chance, young man. Wasted opportunity.
IN 8 Freddie Ljungberg
OUT 16 Marco Pappa
58' - Heeeeeeere's...Freddie! That was my worst Ed McMahon impersonation right there.
59' - More horrid passing from the Galaxy, and solid defending from the Fire. It's a tale of two cities, and a tale of two teams. Goal kick, Sean Johnson.
60' - The Galaxy are playing with empty eyes right now, and it's showing today.
61' - 61 minutes in, and it's still 3-1 Chicago.
62' - Los Angeles is not playing the team that ran off to a fast start. It seems the opposition has already figured them out already.
63' - And Dunivant would be wise to just stick to defending because that shot was atrocious. Sean Johnson hasn't had to do much work today.
64' - And it's pretty easy to see why: Chicago's back line is better than LA's today.
65' - Substitution Chicago Fire
IN 13 Deris Umanzon
OUT 14 Patrick Nyarko
66' - Yellow card 8 Dema Kovalenko
Los Angeles Galaxy
Frustration foul on Krzysztof Krol. He walks with a limp.
68' - 68 minutes in, and if we see any goals, the fans will like to see it come from the men in white.
Yellow card 2 Todd Dunivant
Los Angeles Galaxy
All right, looks like Petrescu is cracking.
69' - Horrid touch from Sean Franklin. Goal kick Fire. This should be all gravy now for the visitors.
71' Substitution Los Angeles Galaxy
IN 21 Alan Gordon
OUT 26 Michael Stephens
And I think Bruce Arena just threw in the towel with that sub, but we'll have to wait and see.
72' - Bowen nearly pulled off the Keystone Kops on that ball...even though in all fairness, the Kops were here since the fourth minute of play.
73' - Bad shot from Bowen.
74' - Another bad one from Bowen, this time in Sean Johnson's direction.
75' - We are 75 in, and the boo birds have come out to greet Baggio Husidic.
76' - Substitution Chicago Fire
IN 28 Steven Kinney
OUT 9 Baggio Husidic
77' - Another shot in the direction of Sean Johnson, this time in from Sean Franklin. At least now know which Sean is better.
78' - Substitution Los Angeles Galaxy
IN 88 Alex Cazumba
OUT 16 Gregg Berhalter
79' - Corner for the G's. Penalty after that was wrecked. Cazumba was fouled.
81' - GOAL! Los Angeles Galaxy 10 Landon Donovan
That's a brace for Landon.
82' - The Galaxy can still salvage a draw, but they have to work quickly.
83' - That throw-in was wasted.
84' - Horrid! You space in the open, you have to capitalize. The G's didn't do that.
85' - No foul called by Silvio Petruscu when it it was obvious that one of the Galaxy players was impeded.
86' - 86 minutes in, and it's 3-2 Chicago.
88' - Here's a corner for Los Angeles. High header from Edson Buddle, and boy, hasn't he struggled?
89' - Here's Freddie Ljungberg, and that will be a goal kick.
90' - And Fire will let that one go out of bounds. Goal kick, Sean Johnson.
90' + 1' - Four minutes of stoppage time. The passing has been out of sync today.
90' + 2' - Neutralized. And golly me, what is Edson Buddle doing?
90' + 3' - Yellow card 25 Sean Johnson
90' + 4' - Wasted free kick, and that just adds to the misery that was today. Well, this was certainly not the best way to begin the month of August, and the slump continues.
Attendance for this match: 20,348.
Stay tuned for my take on this contest on The View from Victoria Street and Bleacher Report.