Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy were unfortunate to have drawn scoreless with the Seattle Sounders on Monday. They will hope for a better result when they host the Chicago Fire on Saturday, July 9 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
“It’s good to get back into training, but playing in a game is different,” team captain Landon Donovan told LAGalaxy.com's Luis Bueno. “I wasn’t very sharp [Monday] either. That doesn’t have to do with the team. That just has to do with me individually.”
Donovan was away on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty and the loss of minutes may have something to do with the whole situation, regarding his lack of form.
“He looked a little bit tired for Landon,” Arena said. “In all honesty, he didn’t play a lot of minutes. He didn’t come back perhaps the way he left because he had limited minutes over his monthly stint there, and I think that takes a little bit away."
“We gave him some time off when he came back so he hasn’t been in the swing of things like he needs to be. He’s certainly going to build with each game,” Arena added.
Midfielder David Beckham is nursing a stress fracture and will hope that it subsides this weekend.
“Did I expect to play in this game? No, not really,” Beckham told reporters. “Not after finding out it was a fracture, I didn’t expect to play in this game. I had an epidural and cortisone shot last week and it seemed to take the pain away. Obviously the fracture is still there but the pain has died down a bit.”
“A lot of my game is the way I kick the ball, the way I pass the ball, the way I cross the ball,” Donovan added. “So there is a little bit of stiffness there, but that’s obviously part of the rehab program I have going on, and getting rid of that should be fine.”
Injuries to defenders A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez have tested the Galaxy's depth.
“It’s a center back curse this year,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “I want to change my position, or I’m not going to call myself a center back.”
“We’re prepared for that,” Arena told LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan. “We’re really prepared for that. I think we’re prepared with five players. We have four center backs with Omar, A.J., Gregg and Sean. We’ve done that, starting in preseason out. Bryan Jordan has had some time in that position as well.”
“I think it’s always difficult losing players, especially when it’s defenders,” Beckham said. “I think we adapted in the right way, in the way that we needed to.
“When things are down and when players miss [playing time] through either suspension or injury, it’s how the squad reacts. We’ve reacted well. We reacted really well in San Jose and obviously tonight, losing a couple of players again.”
"Bruce has put a team together where we can throw anyone out there," said defender Sean Franklin. "We knew that the next guy was ready to step up. They did that tonight.”
“It’s definitely unlucky,” Gonzalez said of his injury. “It started in San Jose when things started getting unlucky. Today me and A.J. go down. I think A.J. is a lot worse off than I am; he was kind of dizzy from the get-go. Hopefully he’s all right."
“For me, I have to be really focused on getting my treatment,” Gonzalez added.
“It’s strange, but to look at our position in our league, having that many injuries, we’re fortunate,” Berhalter added. “We’re second in goals-against average in the league…so we’re doing some things right. That’s why you train, that’s why you have depth and you work on things. When you’re working on things, it’s not just for the first group, but for everyone so they can see how it’s done.”
While the Los Angeles Galaxy are sitting in first place in the league with a record of 9-2-9 (36 points), the Chicago Fire are 2-4-12 (18 points) and have been unable to deliver victories on a consistent basis.
Dominic Oduro and Marco Pappa lead Chicago in goals with five, while Diego Chaves has added four to his credit. Patrick Nyarko leads the team in assists with three, while Oduro, Gaston Puerari and Gonzalo Segares all have two assists each.
Segares, Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba and Yamith Cuesta will all be needed to neutralize the Galaxy attack, which has been rusty due to lack of scoring form and injury.
Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson has a 2-2-8 record with a 1.17 goals against average, 32 saves and a 70 percent save percentage. His expected counterpart, Galaxy backup netminder, Josh Saunders, has a 3-1-3 record, a 1.25 GAA, 18 saves and a 69.2 percent save percentage.
Injuries to DeLaGarza and Gonzalez mean that other defenders will need to step up, like Berhalter and Frankie Hejduk. Juninho, Chris Birchall and Mike Magee must be able to distribute the ball to their finishers in Donovan, Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett, all of whom are in need of a return to form.
Donovan leads the team in goals with eight, while Beckham leads the team in assists with seven. However, Beckham is expected to come off the bench on Saturday.
There will be a Chicken Thief on Saturday night for the Fire. Oduro or Pappa. Take your pick. In any case, I expect the Galaxy to return to form and earn their 10th win of the season because victories have become harder to come by for this Chicago side.
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 1
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes.