Preview: Fire, Galaxy set for showdown at Toyota Park on ESPN

CHI vs. LA, 7-8-2012

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CHICAGO FIRE vs LA GALAXY
TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
July 8, 2012 (WEEK 18, MLS Game #168)
2 p.m. CT (ESPN/Deportes; GolTV)

The Chicago Fire return home for one of their marquee fixtures of the season, playing host to the LA Galaxy on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park before an ESPN audience. The Fire are unbeaten now in their last four games, coming off a scoreless draw at midweek at the Houston Dynamo. The Galaxy have now dropped back-to-back contests after a three-game winning run, falling to another late goal in a 2-1 home loss to Philadelphia Union, also at midweek.

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REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Eric Boria; JAR (opposite): Adam Garner; 4th: Fotis Bazakos
MLS Career: 136 games; FC/gm: 24.2; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 32; pens: 42

INJURY REPORT

CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R Achilles tendinitis); DOUBTFUL: MF Rafael Robayo (R AC sprain); FW Federico Puppo (R ankle sprain) …

LA GALAXY – OUT: DF Andrew Boyens (L sports hernia surgery); FW Edson Buddle (R knee surgery); MF Dan Keat (R knee surgery); DF Leonardo (R knee inflammation); QUESTIONABLE: DF Omar Gonzalez (L knee surgery); MF Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms); FW Pat Noonan (R quad strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: LA: David Beckham (through July 8)

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: LA: Juninho
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Dan Gargan, Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Segares … LA: Landon Donovan

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (36 meetings): Fire 15 wins (1 shootout), 44 goals … Galaxy 17 wins (0 shootout), 44 goals … Ties 4
AT CHICAGO (18 meetings): Fire 9 wins (0 shootout), 24 goals … Galaxy 8 wins (0 shootout), 21 goals … Ties 1

LAST YEAR (MLS):
4/17: CHI 1, LA 2 (Oduro 89 – Barrett 42; Gonzalez 72)
7/9: LA 2, CHI 1 (Donovan 58; Beckham 66 – Nazarit 62)
•    The Galaxy have come away with points on their last three visits to Toyota Park, including a 2-1 win last April 17, and a 2-0 win in 2009. The Fire have won just one of the last six meetings between the clubs.
•    The Fire have won on two of their last four trips to The Home Depot Center to play LA.
•    Coaches record: Frank Klopas vs. LA: P1 W0 L1 D0 … Bruce Arena v CHI: P15 W9 L4 D2

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire stretched their undefeated streak to four games though their winning streak ended, playing to a scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday evening. The Fire are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 28 points from 17 games.
 

LAST MATCH

  • The teams combined for just three shots on target for the evening. Chicago’s Marco Pappa tested Tally Hall in the 12th minute with a left-footed strike from outside that box -- the only chance the Dynamo 'keeper had to deal with.
  • Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made two saves on the evening, both in the final 45 minutes, greatly threatened by neither.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that posted a 1-0 win against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. Gonzalo Segares returned from suspension in place of Arne Friedrich.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause - Patrick Nyarko (Hunter Jumper 87), Chris Rolfe, Marco Pappa (Orr Barouch 72) - Dominic Oduro (Alex 54).

TEAM NEWS

WATCH: Fire players preview LA

  • The Fire extended their undefeated streak to four games, their longest of the season.
  • “When we play on the road the idea is always to win, but getting a point on the road is good,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “Now we are back home for two games and it’s important for us to push that situation and try to get some wins at home. I’m happy with the performance of the guys.”
  • The Fire also kept clean sheets in back-to-back games for the first time this season, their first shutouts since May 9.
  • “Obviously, we want three points in any game, but on the road in tough conditions, especially with a quick turnaround, a point is well warranted and it’s great to get another shutout,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “The guys in front of me played their hearts out tonight and we were able to get the job done.”
  • Chris Rolfe started a second consecutive match in the attacking midfield role, in place of Sebastian Grazzini.
  • “He did an excellent job. They had three in the midfield and he had a responsibility for that third offensive guy,” Patrick Nyarko said. “We were actually telling him, sometimes he’s overdoing it … He’s not leading the midfielders and stepping up high, and it’s leaving a gap.”
  • Alex made a second consecutive appearance off the substitute’s bench, playing the final 36 minutes.
  • “He’s very tricky, and he can pick the right pass,” Nyarko said. “He’s pretty special, just like Grazzini. He’s still new to the team and he’s still getting his fitness under him. It’ll still take a few games to settle in with the team and to know what the MLS is all about. He’s a tremendous player, and he’s going to be huge for us.”
  • Four days after making his first start since May 12, center back Arne Friedrich was held out of the team for the Houston match.
  • “We are excited about the point. It was also a shutout. We didn’t lose, we came here with a game plan. We stayed focused and at the end of the day we were able to execute it,” said Dominic Oduro. “We took the point on the road and now we will just go home and prepare for the next game.”

LA GALAXY
The LA Galaxy went down to a second consecutive defeat, Philadelphia Union getting a late goal to snatch a 2-1 win Wednesday at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy are in sixth place in the Western Conference with 20 points from 18 games.

LAST MATCH

  • Union took the lead in first-half stoppage time thanks to a bit of individual brilliance. Michael Farfan raced down the right side of the area, got to the touchline and pulled a centering pass back toward goal. It found a streaking Jack McInerney, who got to the near post and flicked a backheel that snuggled just inside the back stick.The Galaxy nabbed the equalizer in the 73rd minute.
  • Landon Donovan fed Todd Dunivant on the left side of the area, who slipped a ball across goal. It threaded through a group of players, flicked on by Robbie Keane, and Chad Barrett was there to tuck it in from close range.
  • Deep into stoppage time Union snatched the winner. Substitute Lionard Pajoy shielded a defender then hit a backheel into space for Michael Farfan. The midfielder dribbled into the area and curled a shot past goalkeeper Josh Saunders inside the right-hand post.
  • Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made two changes to the team that went down to a 4-3 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium. Omar Gonzalez came into the back four for Sean Franklin, and Marcelo Sarvas started in place of the suspended David Beckham.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez (Sean Franklin 45), David Junior Lopes, Todd Dunivant - Hector Jimenez (Chad Barrett 60), Marcelo Sarvas, Juninho, Mike Magee - Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane.

TEAM NEWS

WATCH: Keane, Arena preview Fire

  • The Galaxy have lost seven games in the last 11 league matches, and have five losses surrounding their season-long three-game winning streak.
  • “We gave the game away today. That’s a game we should have walked away comfortably with three points, in my opinion. Too many chances in the first half that were wasted, poor concentration at the end of the first half cost us a goal and just an extremely poor effort at the end of the game to get exposed and to give up the point we worked so hard to get,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “ … The frustrating part is there’s a bunch of these games we should have won, let alone lose. It’s very frustrating. Let’s face it, the effort was there, our guys played hard, they understood what they needed to do. Each game we get a couple of guys that make a few mental and tactical mistakes that punish us.”
  • The Galaxy had 16 total attempts at goal and put six on target. “It’s frustrating, there’s no doubt about it,” Landon Donovan said. “It’s hard to be too upset because almost everyone played really well but I’ve been in this game a long time and have seen a lot of games like this where one team dominates and you don’t score, and next thing you know you’re on the bad end of the result. And that’s what happened.”
  • Chad Barrett scored his first goal of the season in 17 appearances, his first in league play since netting last Oct. 16 vs. Chivas USA.
  • Omar Gonzalez made his first start of the season after suffering a knee injury during the offseason, after he was reinstated from the disabled list during the week.
  • “Even at less than 100 percent he still helps us and he’s going to help us a lot going forward. He’s still going to need a lot of time to get going; this doesn’t mean he’s fully there yet, but he made good progress tonight,” Donovan said. “I thought he played pretty well and we hope to keep moving him forward.”
  • Said Arena: “I thought he played well. Wasn’t really challenged much in the first half, because of the nature of the half were we really dominated the game.”
  • David Beckham, who was suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation, will be suspended for the Chicago match after a decision reached by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
  • The game-winning goal was the 29th allowed by the Galaxy this season, in the first game of the second half of the campaign. The Galaxy allowed 28 goals over the entirety of their 2011 league season.
  • “We’ve lost a bunch of games by a goal, a bunch of games we should have won. We should be a team sitting on 30 some odd points. This is not about playing poorly for 18 games, this is about playing poorly in a couple of spots in 18 games that have cost us severely,” said Arena.
  • The trip to Chicago starts a run of seven of the next eight games away from The Home Depot Center for the Galaxy.
  • “Our next (three) games are away, so we don’t have time to sulk on this, we have to get points. The second half of the season, our first game of the second half, and we lose at home a game that we probably could have and, probably, should have won,” said defender A.J. DeLaGarza.