MLS Preview: LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire


Jun 1, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (20) and Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Juninho (19) fight for a ball in the first half of their game at Toyota Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Where: StubHub Center in Carson, California

When: 10pm Eastern on UniMas

Overview: It’s been 89 days since the LA Galaxy hoisted the MLS Cup after defeating the New England Revolution in a match that took extra time. In what has seemed much longer for MLS fans, including the worry that the season would not start on time due to the labor dispute, we are back on for Major League Soccer.

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Last season’s MLS champions start their title defense against a revamped Chicago Fire team. These two teams drew in their lone meeting last season at Toyota Park. Jeff Larentowicz put the Men in Red in front after converting a penalty kick in the 68th minute. 6 minutes later, Landon Donovan scored the equalizer and the match ended 1-1. That extended the LA Galaxy’s undefeated run against the Fire to 6 matches. Chicago has not defeated the Galaxy since 2010. The good news for the Fire is that the positive result came in Carson.

The LA Galaxy come into the 2015 season without their legendary star, Landon Donovan. Another loss the team has to deal with is the trade of midfielder Marcelo Sarvas to Colorado. This just means that Bruce Arena is ready to put a lot of his faith in the youth.

Gyasi Zardes is becoming well known after his scintillating performances last season, in addition to a call-up to the USMNT camp in January, where he turned some heads in his first US cap against Panama. Homegrown player Bradford Jamieson IV may be ready to take a step up from LA Galaxy II and make an impact on the senior team. Jamieson also plays for the U20 US team and has shown moments of brilliance with his pace and technical ability.

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The LA Galaxy falls in "El Trafico" against LAFC (4-2)
The LA Galaxy falls in "El Trafico" against LAFC (4-2) /

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  • It cannot be forgotten that Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy’s big name signing in the off season from Liverpool, will be coming over in the summer. The Galaxy should have the pieces in place to stay afloat and prosper even before he arrives. MLS Cup MVP and perennial league MVP contender, Robbie Keane, will continue to pester defenses. Juninho and Stefan Ishizaki help hold the midfield down behind him and allow for the great link up play to the front line.

    LA’s defense is especially consistent and the center back pairing of Omar Gonazalez and AJ DeLaGarza allow for full backs Dan Gargan and Robbie Rogers to push up and help the offense out.

    The Chicago Fire sport a completely different side from the one we saw leave the pitch last October. Captain Logan Pause retired in an emotional final match, but Frank Yallop and crew decided to reload and use all designated player spots. With those spots, the Fire acquired Kennedy Igboananike, David Accam, and Shaun Maloney.

    Igboananike will be given the first chance to make his mark as the team’s go-to striker; something that has been missing since Mike Magee’s magical season in 2013. Quincy Amerikwa and Guly do Prado, along with the fact that Accam can play up front, provide much better depth than the side had last season when forced to play the dreadful Matt Fondy at times.

    Rookie sensation Harrison Shipp is hoping to avoid a sophomore slump, and he’ll have Shaun Maloney to learn from when pulling strings as he did on occasion last season. The aforementioned Accam, though he’s hurt for the opener, provides pace on the wing as will Patrick Nyarko if he can come back 100% from his injury sometime in May. Mike Magee will be back a couple months into the season as well and he is a flexible option to play up front or as an attacking mid.

    Razvan Cocis, Matt Watson, and Chris Ritter provide options at the defensive midfield role. First round draft pick Matt Polster opened up plenty of eyes in the preseason with his poise from the position as well. Continuing defensively, the Fire will go into the season with the center back pair of Jeff Larentowicz and Adailton. Big Red provided decent play considering he was learning the position on the job as a converted midfielder. Fire fans are hoping Adailton is better than the inconsistent Baky Soumare, who likely caused a lot of heads banging against walls. Joevin Jones and fan-favorite Lovel Palmer supply blistering pace on the wings and Sean Johnson is an extremely valuable back stop.

    Players to Watch: The obvious option for the home side would be Robbie Keane, but the Fire will likely make sure they have him covered. This could open up spaces for Gyasi Zardes as Chicago may force the youngster to beat them. The American forward will cause the new Fire back line some fits if they don’t pay enough attention to him.

    For the Men in Red, Shaun Maloney is the man to watch. With more than just Harrison Shipp in the midfield to create chances, there is quality in the Chicago side to pass with pinpoint accuracy if proper runs are made. It would not be a surprise if Maloney finishes in the top 5 in assists and it needs to start this week in Carson.

    Prediction: LA Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 1. The Galaxy are coming off an MLS Cup and will be absolutely amped in front of their home crowd after any pre-game ceremony that may take place. The Fire should be happy with a draw (yes, I know that’s a sore spot) from this match as LA have not lost at home since last season’s opener against Real Salt Lake.

    Next: Philadelphia Union Roster Construction

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