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THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
1 pm PT (ESPN2)
The Chicago Fire’s depth and resiliency will be truly tested in one of the real marquee matches to this point in the MLS season, as the two conference leaders meet in the Fire’s visit to play the Los Angeles Galaxy. Both teams think they’ve had somewhat of a middling season, yet both have been getting results – the Fire with one loss in their seven games, the Galaxy losing for the first time at home last weekend. It will also be a clash of styles – the Galaxy having scored and allowed the most goals in the league this season, while the Fire have allowed the second-fewest goals this season.
REFEREE: Hector Tobon. SAR (bench): Fabio Tovar; JAR (opposite): Emiliano Monje; 4th: Arnold Baldeaux
MLS Career: 3 games; FC/gm: 24.3; Y/gm: 2.3; R: 1 pens: 0
Games involving Galaxy: first game
Games involving Fire: P1 W0 L0 T1; FC/gm: 32.0; Y/gm: 5.0; R: 1; pens: 0
LOS ANGELES GALAXY – OUT: FW Carlos Ruiz (R ankle sprain); MF Peter Vagenas (groin surgery); QUESTIONABLE: DF Tyrone Marshall (L MCL sprain); DF Danny Califf (R MCL sprain) ... CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: MD Jesse Marsch (R ankle cartilage damage); QUESTIONABLE: FW Nate Jaqua (R foot injury); PROBABLE: FW Ante Razov (lower back strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: LA: Jovan Kirovski (USA; June 13 v Grenada); Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica; June 13 v Haiti) ... CHI: Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley (USA; June 13 v Grenada); Damani Ralph, Andy Williams (Jamaica; June 13 v Haiti); Dipsy Selolwane (Botswana; June 19 v Malawi)
YELLOW PERIL: LA: Peter Vagenas (10 CP in 2 gms); Chris Albright (18 CP)
ALL-TIME (19 meetings): Galaxy 10 wins (0 shootout), 22 goals ... Fire 8 wins (1 shootout), 23 goals ... 1 draw
This is the first of three meetings between the two teams this season, the first of two at The Home Depot Center. They’ll next play at Soldier Field on June 27, before facing off in Carson on Aug. 21.
A year ago, the teams had a fractious series, the Galaxy failing to score in three league meetings, also falling in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
The Fire won 1-0 at home on Aug. 20 on an Orlando Perez goal (73), then they on Victoria Street on Sept. 13 (Ralph 58, Jaqua 90). The Fire then finished off the league series on Oct. 4 at Cardinal Stadium (Beasley 60, Marsch 66).
In the Open Cup match in Naperville, the Fire jumped out to a three-goal lead before advancing to the final with a 3-2 victory (Ralph 55, Whitfield 63, Razov 69 – Moreno 73, Torres 75).
It was the second consecutive year one team had won all of the meetings between the two teams. In 2002, the Galaxy won all four meetings, two by 1-0 scorelines and two by 2-1.
They’ve played three times in the Open Cup, all in the semifinals. The Fire have won twice (2000 and last year), while the Galaxy won in 2001. They’ve also split two semifinal series in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Carlos Ruiz leads current Galaxy players with 5 goals, 0 assists in 6 games (5 starts) v Chicago. Only three other players – Cobi Jones, Tyrone Marshall and Peter Vagenas – have multiple goals against the Fire (2 each). The Galaxy’s all-time points leader v Chicago is Simon Elliott (2 goals, 6 assists).
Ante Razov, DaMarcus Beasley and Jesse Marsch each have 3 goals to lead current Fire players v Los Angeles. Razov has 6 assists to lead the points table, while Beasley has 3. Andy Williams has 2 goals, 7 assists v the Galaxy.
Coaches record: Sigi Schmid vs. CHI: P14 W8 L5 D1 ... Dave Sarachan v LA: P3 W3 L0 D0
AT LOS ANGELES (9 meetings): Galaxy 5 wins (0 shootout), 10 goals ... Fire 3 wins (1 shootout), 9 goals ... 1 draw
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
The Los Angeles Galaxy lost for the first time at home this season, falling to a late goal to a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy still lead the Western Conference and own the league’s best overall record with 18 points from 11 matches, four ahead of the Wizards in the West and two ahead of the Chicago Fire in the overall record.
The Wizards came back from a goal down to win for the first time on their travels and send the Los Angeles to defeat at home for the first time this season, on the night when longtime Galaxy campaigner Mauricio Cienfuegos was honored in a tribute match before the league contest.
Alejandro Moreno gave the Galaxy a lead on 59 minutes to also pull into a tie for the MLS goalscoring lead, turning home a Ricky Lewis knockdown of an Andreas Herzog cross. But just six minutes later Francisco Gomez gave Kansas City their first goal on the road of the campaign, stabbing home a loose ball in the Galaxy penalty area.
Then four minutes from time, Josh Wolff was set free on the left before whipping a low ball across the face of goal that Diego Gutierrez slid in to turn home and give the Wizards the three points, easing the sting of a late midweek loss to New England.
"Their two goals were off of mistakes," Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said. "On Gomez's goal, no one was with him. On Gutierrez's goal, Wolff was allowed to get by our defense and got the ball over to Gutierrez. We made three errors and they buried two of them. When you're going well, things like that happen."
Schmid made no changes to the team that defeated the Dallas Burn 4-1 at home the previous weekend. Here’s Schmid’s team (4-3-1-2): Kevin Hartman – Chris Albright, Ryan Suarez, Hong Myung-Bo, Ricky Lewis – Cobi Jones, Marcelo Saragosa, Sasha Victorine – Andreas Herzog – Jovan Kirovski (Arturo Torres 81), Alejandro Moreno (Joseph Ngwenya 68).
"If you're up 1-0 at home, you expect to at least come out of the match with a point," Schmid said. "If you look at their results from the last two games (both losses), they were a little hungrier and they outworked us."
The Galaxy owned the game for the first hour, but after the visitors equalized, they struggled to reimpose their will on the game. "They came in here very organized and disciplined," Schmid said of Kansas City. "They are a physical team, but not physical where they are fouling you, but they seem to get in there and win the ball."
Schmid will be without Jovan Kirovski and Tyrone Marshall as both are on international duty with the USA and Jamaica respectively for World Cup qualifiers this weekend.
Before the league match, the Galaxy held a farewell match in honor of retired Mauricio Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos scored the winning goal on a penalty kick in the 59th minute as El Salvador Select defeated a Galaxy alumni team 4-3. He also had an assist on a goal by Raul Diaz Arce in the 51st minute, as the longtime Galaxy captain played a half for both teams. Carlos Hermosillo scored two goals for the Galaxy alumni team.
Schmid will again be missing his first-choice strike force, with Carlos Ruiz still injured and Jovan Kirovski with the U.S. team for the Grenada friendly. But Schmid said he is not concerned: "In all my years with the Galaxy I have never had the ability to replace quality forwards with quality (backups)," he said. "We're able to go back to two guys (Alejandro Moreno and Joseph Ngwenya) who between the two of them have eight goals. That's not too shabby."
Schmid said Ruiz is improving. "He's starting to make good progress," Schmid said. "Once you can start running it speeds up" the rehabilitation process. But he said he does not expect him to immediately supplant Moreno in the first team. "I would be disappointed if Alejandro wanted to give it up (a starting spot). He's doing everything he can do to make sure that position is his. He's a player who has shown himself capable of starting. When there comes a time when everybody is healthy and ready to go, then we'll deal with it then.'
Defender Tyrone Marshall’s knee injury – which has kept him out of the Galaxy injury for five matches – has also ruled him out of the first leg of the World Cup qualifier against Haiti. "It hurts," said Jamaica technical director Carl Brown. "He's one of those utility players who can fit easily into any formation we want.”
The Chicago Fire won for the second consecutive home match, this time a dominating 3-0 victory against D.C. United at Soldier Field on Saturday afternoon. The Fire maintained their lead in the Eastern Conference, now two points ahead of second-place Columbus Crew, and two points behind the Los Angeles Galaxy in the race for the top overall record.
Damani Ralph connected for his second career hat trick to pull himself into a tie atop the MLS goalscoring charts. All three goals by the Jamaican international were real striker's goals, all coming from sharply-angled shots in the area.
''Damani's just very confident around the box,'' Fire coach Dave Sarachan said. ''He can pull a rabbit out of a hat. He strikes great with both feet, and he's a strong kid. When you have that, you're going to get some goals.'' Said Ralph: "They were all from acute angles. Like coach says, sometimes I overdo it. But the confidence I have, that once I get in the area, if I hit it good, I think I have a good chance."
In the first half, he fought off defender David Stokes before firing between 'keeper Troy Perkins' legs from the right side (15), then in the second half, he ran onto a perfectly-weighted through ball in the left side of the area to again beat Perkins (55).
Then 14 minutes later, he collected a high, looping overhead cross from Nate Jaqua before hammering a drive from an impossibly tight angle just under the crossbar. United again failed to win back-to-back contests, going without the full three points for the eighth time in 10 games.
"We controlled the ball most of the match," Sarachan said. "The second half was very good, and if you add it all up, it probably was (our best match of the year). All season long we've been creating chances, and today we finished them. From back to front, we were very solid all day."
Sarachan made no changes to the team that defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 at Soldier Field the previous Saturday. Here’s Sarachan’s team (3-3-1-3): Henry Ring – Evan Whitfield, Jim Curtin, Kelly Gray – Nate Jaqua, Chris Armas, Orlando Perez (Justin Mapp 75) – Andy Williams (Logan Pause 57) – Damani Ralph (Craig Capano 75), Ante Razov, DaMarcus Beasley
The Fire drew their largest crowd of the season – 25,810 – to Soldier Field. "They had Adu fever, but I'm glad they came out," Ralph said. ''We fed off their energy.''
Sarachan will have some serious selection issues over the next two weeks, as four starters will be away on international duty – Beasley and Armas with the USA and Williams and Ralph with Jamaica as they face Grenada and Haiti respectively in World Cup qualifying.
In Tunis on Saturday, Chicago Fire striker Dipsy Selolwane scored, but the Zebras still went down to a heavy 4-1 defeat by Tunisia. Jose Clayton put the home side ahead in the ninth minute and Karim Hagui doubled it 10 minutes before the break. Selolwane scored in the 65th minute as Botswana looked like they were going to make a game of it, but Ali Zitouni and Hagui answered four minutes apart to give Tunisia the victory. Selolwane played the entire match.