In the continuous quest to track down their lost wheels, Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy wander into Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, like a pack of Angelenos on a road to nowhere. On September 4, they face the Chicago Fire in their penultimate road trip.
It's a Major League Soccer contest that will have significant implications in the dynamics of the MLS Western Conference Standings, as well as the wide-open supporters Shield race.
“Obviously the results the last two weeks are not good,” Arena said after the match against Kansas City. “You can term it however you wish. I won’t dispute history.
“It’s disturbing. It was not a good performance on our part. I think those things never surprise you in MLS. I think we’re getting the best shot of every team we play, and that requires that we be, game in and game out, ready to compete. And if we’re not, we’re going to have problems.”
“It’s a wake-up call for us,” said defender Todd Dunivant when reflecting on Saturday's game. “We have to pick it back up. It’s been a good couple of months now where it’s really been a slump. The fact that we are still in first place is a testament of how good our start was.
"We have to get it right at the right time and the only silver lining is that the slump is happening now and not at the end of the year.”
Even Landon Donovan admitted that the G's were still looking for their wheels.
“We’re struggling,” Donovan said. “We’ve gotten away from what we’re good at. Part of it has to do with being at the top of the table and relaxing a little bit. We put a lot into the first half of the season to get where we we’re at.”
“I wish we didn’t lose in that fashion,” Edson Buddle said on the defeat, “but we just have to forget about it.”
Out for the match against the Chicago Fire due to suspension is midfielder Chris Birchall.
“Being outcompeted, where you’re not winning your individual battles, (is a serious problem)” Birchall said. “You can’t always say the effort is there when you’re getting outcompeted. I think it was more alarming than the other (losses), and we just have to put it behind us.
“We need a performance where we play hard, grind out a one-nil win and put points on the table. We need something.”
Chicago comes into this week's match at Toyota Park also off a defeat, a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders. Carlos De Los Cobos's club will look to build on their recent success against the Galaxy through Marco Pappa, who leads the club with seven goals.
Other key scorers for the Fire include Baggio Husidic and Brian McBride with four goals, and Calen Carr and Collins John, both with two goals each.
Patrick Nyarko leads the club in assists with seven and is the team's main playmaker. Husidic and Pappa have also proved valuable in setting up the finish with four assists. The addition of Freddie Ljungberg has injected new life to this club, with three assists to show for his young career with the Fire.
Watch for the trio of C.J. Brown, Krzysztof Krol and Wilman Conde to neutralize the slumping Galaxy forwards. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson has done his part relieving season starter Andrew Drykstra, with a 1.80 goals against average and a 67.9 percent save percentage.
As for the Galaxy, Edson Buddle's 13 goals and Landon Donovan's 11 assists are still the best in the league, but both need to amp up their production on Saturday.
Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts's GAA and save percentage dropped to 0.76 and 77.8 percent, respectively.
Juninho was unavailable for last week's match against the Kansas City Wizards due to personal issues but should be back in time to make the trip to Bridgeview.
No explanation is needed regarding the Galaxy's inept form the past two months: a decrepit back line susceptible to lose the intensity to neutralizing attacks from its opposition, and an attack delivering looks as bland as traditional English cuisine.
The time is now for this team to spice things up. And it has to start now.
Take a back seat, boys. This prognosticator is throwing caution to the wind in the Windy City and is calling for...a draw.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. PT and will be televised by Telefutura and Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
In search of Miss LA Galaxy
The Miss Universe Pageant may have ended a week or so ago in Las Vegas, but another pageant is on the books. It's the 2011 Miss LA Galaxy contest, presented by COVERGIRL.
This pageant dates back to 2002. During the next two months, ten of Southern California's best women who span professions ranging from coaching soccer to neuroscience to the pursuit of a graduate degree will be vying for the honor of Miss LA Galaxy. One of those contestants is Valencia, California's Megan Lacina.
"Today was wonderful, it's been a great bonding experience between all the girls," Lacina said after the contestants took the time to soak in the sights and sounds of Newport Beach. “We are capable of doing so much. I think it would be a wonderful opportunity to be part of something that is helping so many people in the community.
"If I were to win it would be a huge honor, but I think any of these girls would deserve to win equally and I would be just as happy for any of them.”
The ideal candidate is someone who takes pride in making a difference in their community, enjoys doing volunteer work, demonstrates extraordinary academic and personal achievement and, of course, supports the LA Galaxy and its commitment to making the sport of soccer grow in this country.
The final day of this contest is scheduled for October 24, on the final home game of the season against FC Dallas.