but in the six road matches since, they came away with seven of a possible 18 points, including a first victory away from Southern California in more than a year. That last home game was also noteworthy: the first home loss in 17 games on Victoria Street, and the first-ever home loss for Steve Sampson. The Chicago Fire are in the midst of an incredible road swing of their own, beginning a five-match, 56-day span between games at Soldier Field in their last contest, a comprehensive 3-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards two weekends ago.
REFEREE: Ricardo Valenzuela. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Corey Rockwell; 4th: Mark Geiger
MLS Career: 66 games; FC/gm: 34.3; Y/gm: 4.6; R: 28; pens: 22
Games involving Galaxy: P14 W6 L4 T4; FC/gm: 32.5; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 5; pens: 3
Games involving Earthquakes: P21 W12 L6 T3; FC/gm: 35.0; Y/gm: 4.8; R: 7; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: LOS ANGELES GALAXY - DOUBTFUL: MF Paulo Nagamura (R knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Ugo Ihemelu (R knee sprain) ... CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: MF Craig Capano (L torn ACL surgery); DF Leonard Griffin (abdominal strain); MF Scott Buete (R fifth metatarsal fracture surgery); FW Andy Herron (R toe sprain); FW Nate Jaqua (L ankle bone spur); GK Matt Pickens (L ankle sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: LA: FW Landon Donovan, DF Chris Albright (USA; Sept. 3 v Mexico); MF Guillermo Ramirez (Guatemala; Sept. 3 v T&T); DF Michael Umaña (Costa Rica; Sept. 3 v Panama) ... CHI: MF Chris Armas (USA; Sept. 3 v Mexico); FW Lubos Reiter (Slovakia; Sept. 7 v Latvia)
SUSPENDED: LA: Chris Albright (21 CP; through Sept. 11)
WARNINGS: LA: Naldo da Conceicao (18 CP); Tyrone Marshall (9 add'l CP) ... CHI: Gonzalo Segares (20 CP)
This is the second of two meetings this season between the teams, the only one at The Home Depot Center, after they met for the first time barely three weeks ago.
ALL-TIME (23 meetings): Galaxy 12 wins (0 shootout), 28 goals ... Fire 9 wins (1 shootout), 28 goals ... 2 draws
AT LOS ANGELES (11 meetings): Galaxy 6 wins (0 shootout), 14 goals ... Fire 5 wins (0 shootout), 12 goals ... 2 draws
On Aug. 13 at Soldier Field, the Fire claimed a 2-1 victory as they won their final home game for nearly two months while once again keeping the Galaxy unsuccessful when they ventured forth from southern California.
The Fire took a two-goal lead into the interval thanks to the influence of Justin Mapp. In the 20th minute, he set off on a juking run into the Galaxy penalty area before he was sent flying to the turf by L.A. center back Michael Umana, and Jesse Marsch coolly converted from the spot.
Then in the 38th minute, Mapp dribbled the left flank and whipped in a cross to the back post that found John Thorrington completely unmarked, and he powerfully headed home for his first MLS goal.
The Galaxy pulled a goal in the 53rd minute when Peter Vagenas headed home a Landon Donovan corner kick at the top of the six, then they saw an apparent equalizer ruled out for a foul just four minutes. But the Fire claimed the win before heading on a five-game road swing that will last until the first weekend in October, while the Galaxy still haven't won outside of Los Angeles since last June.
Here's Dave Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Tony Sanneh, Jim Curtin, Jack Stewart, Gonzalo Segares - John Thorrington, Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, Justin Mapp (Logan Pause 79) - Thiago (Will Johnson 89), Chad Barrett (Chris Rolfe 76).
Here's Steve Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Pablo Chinchilla (Joseph Ngwenya 77), Michael Umana, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Guillermo Ramirez (Troy Roberts 43) - Jovan Kirovski (Landon Donovan 46), Herculez Gomez
Last year, the Galaxy won two of three games between the clubs - winning at each ground - with a draw in the third as they sailed through a season series against the Fire unbeaten for the second time in three years.
On June 27, the Galaxy knocked off the Fire 1-0 at Soldier Field in a top-of-the-table clash. The Galaxy's defending set the stage for the victory - center back Ryan Suarez clearing two balls off the line in the first half - then a wonder goal from Jovan Kirovski 11 minutes from the end provided the margin of victory.
On June 12, the Galaxy scored two goals over the final 10 minutes - the match-winner a goal deep in stoppage time - to come back and claim a 3-2 victory. A long-range blast from Andreas Herzog after a nifty backheel from rookie Joseph Ngwenya gave the Galaxy the lead (10), but Ante Razov finished off a long run out of midfield with a long-range strike of his own (28) to pull the Fire level at the break.
Razov then gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot after Justin Mapp was pulled down in the box (67), but Ngwenya headed home a pinpoint cross from Chris Albright in the 81st minute to bring the Galaxy back to level terms. Albright then turned hero three minutes into added time, scoring with a flying header on a Sasha Victorine cross from the right.
Then on Aug. 21, an 89th-minute goal from Ruiz saved Steve Sampson's debut from ruin, where the home side came back to secure a share of the points. Damani Ralph finally gave the visitors the advantage midway through the second half, collecting a pass on the right flank after a dreadful giveaway and ripping a low angled drive through a defender's legs that settled inside Kevin Hartman's right-hand post (67).
In 2003, the Galaxy failed to score in three league meetings, also falling in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup, as the Fire won all four meetings.
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.
Coaches record: Steve Sampson v CHI: P2 W0 L1 D1 ... Dave Sarachan vs. LA: P7 W4 L2 D1
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
The Earthquakes and Galaxy were playing for the second time in as many matches on the same ground, as four days earlier L.A. had again knocked San Jose out of the Open Cup with a 2-1 victory in a quarterfinal match.
The Earthquakes took the lead in the 23rd minute, when Mark Chung swung in a free kick from the right and former Galaxy striker Alejandro Moreno got the slightest touches on the ball as he and Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman challenged for the ball.
The Galaxy pulled level 14 minutes later when Landon Donovan scored his first goal against his former club with a touch of brillance, collecting the ball outside the area and hitting a dipping, swerving shot that slammed into the upper corner.
But in the 75th minute, a third goal from a third player sent from one California rival to the other provided the match-winner. Ronald Cerritos put in a corner kick from the right and defender Danny Califf powerfully headed home from the near post to move the Earthquakes eight points clear in the West.
Galaxy boss Steve Sampson made two changes to the team that defeated D.C. United 3-2 the weekend before in the nation's capital, the club's first victory outside southern California in nearly 14 months. Guillermo Ramirez returned from international duty into the center of midfield, coming in for Paulo Nagamura, who suffered a right knee sprain in the Open Cup loss. Jovan Kirovski also returned to partner Landon Donovan in attack, replacing Herculez Gomez.
Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Pablo Chinchilla, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Peter Vagenas, Guillermo Ramirez, Ned Grabavoy (Ednaldo da Conceicao 60) - Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski (Herculez Gomez 37)
"It was a great first half with two very good goals. I thought that the way we responded after they scored was exactly what I was looking for. I wish we could have created a few more chances before that. I have to give San Jose credit tonight, they put out a lot of energy and they were very dangerous on dead balls obviously. It was a great strike by Moreno and a brilliant header by Danny Califf. I have to give them credit tonight," Sampson said. "It was a great match, I thought both teams had chances, we had a good one with Chris Albright's header off the post, that could have made the difference for us, but I thought defensively San Jose played exceptionally well, putting forth a lot of energy and forcing us to play quickly."
The Los Angeles Galaxy couldn't build on their U.S. Open Cup victory at midweek, falling to the San Jose Earthquakes in the second meeting between the teams in four days at Spartan Stadium, a 2-1 victory last Saturday night. The Galaxy are still in third place in the Western Conference with 35 points from 25 matches, a point behind FC Dallas and now trailing the Earthquakes by nine points in the division, while still seven points ahead of fourth-place Colorado Rapids.
The visitors conceded two set piece goals on the evening: Alejandro Moreno's glancing header from a Mark Chung free kick in the first half and Danny Califf's header from a Ronald Cerritos corner kick in the second. It left Sampson shaking his head afterwards.
"You can't afford to give up so many of those kinds of opportunities," said Sampson. "You have to eliminate the unforced errors and the silly fouls. You have to be very, very careful against a team like San Jose as far as giving away too many opportunities where they can set up free kicks. They're used to this field. They know how to use it."
Despite the loss, the Galaxy earned a split of their two games in San Jose, something with which Sampson seemed satisfied as the Galaxy head into the season's final two months.
"We're alive in both cups," said Sampson. "We're alive in the U.S. Open Cup, which is very important to our organization. We're still very much alive in league play. So we're very happy that we won Wednesday night. We know that we will meet this team again in league play at our place, and probably in the playoffs at some point. We just hope to be playing our very best soccer when that time comes."
The loss spoiled a much more successful homecoming for Landon Donovan than the one he experienced on June 25. Not only was Donovan much more active, he scored a magnificent equalizer in the first half that silenced the 24,112 fans in attendance.
"I was better prepared and I was pretty motivated tonight," said Donovan. "I certainly wish it could have gone better and I could have got another goal."
Throughout the campaign, defending on set pieces has been a concern for the Galaxy. Early on, when the goals were coming easily, it was less of a concern, but as the goals have dried up it has grown. In the last two Galaxy matches, the 3-2 win v D.C. United and the loss to San Jose, all four goals came from standard situations.
"Maybe we have to mix up the system just a little bit. Maybe go with a combination of man-to-man and zone marking," said the Galaxy boss. "And I take responsibility for that. I think there's enough responsibility to go around. The bottom line is we've got to sort it out going forward."
The Wizards settled into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with their sixth victory in eight matches while sending the Fire to their fourth loss in five games.
Scott Sealy scored on either side of halftime to send the Wizards on their way. First he had the simplest of finishes, poked the ball home from almost on the goal line after Fire 'keeper Matt Pickens was injured as he dove to cut out a low cross (26).
Then in the 72nd minute he doubled the lead with his rookie-best eighth goal of the season, collecting a pass on the left and cutting in before slotting home past substitute 'keeper Zach Thornton. Barely a minute later Jack Jewsbury finished off the match, skipping into the Fire area before rounding Thornton and sliding home the Kansas City third.
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made three changes to the team that defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 the weekend before at Soldier Field. Logan Pause returned at right back for the injured Tony Sanneh and C.J. Brown came back into central defense for Jack Stewart. Chris Rolfe also returned to the first XI, coming in for Chad Barrett in attack.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-1-1): Matt Pickens (Zach Thornton 30) - Logan Pause (Chad Barrett 71), Jim Curtin, C.J. Brown, Gonzalo Segares - John Thorrington, Chris Armas (Will Johnson 78), Jesse Marsch, Justin Mapp - Thiago - Chris Rolfe
"At halftime we felt that as long as we are patient and do a good job with possession we could get the goal back," Sarachan said. " ... When you are down a goal and you're trying to push to get the goal there are going to be situations that will allow the game to open up and that's what happened. You still have to make the defensive plays out of those situations and tonight we didn't."
The Chicago Fire return to league action for the first time in more than two weeks, their last MLS contest not a good way to begin their five-game road swing, a 3-0 thrashing by the Kansas City Wizards on Aug. 19 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Fire have now fallen into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the loss, with 39 points from 25 matches, two behind the Wizards and United while six ahead of fifth-place MetroStars, though just five adrift of East leader New England.
While the loss to the Wizards was disappointing, the Fire are hoping the 16-day league layoff will provide a real jumpstart - especially in reducing the club's injury list.
"You don't make changes for change's sake," Sarachan said. "You put guys in that are healthy and in good form. Right now we have a very thin roster. We're going to count on everybody to get back into good form."
Pickens - who hails from Washington, Mo, near St. Louis, suffered through a rough return to his home state. He suffered a high ankle sprain that forced him off after the first Kansas City goal.
"Personally it's not good, but it's not a really bad injury so I should be back soon," Pickens said. "More importantly, we lost. That hurts more than myself getting injured."
Since the Wizards match, the Fire advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup again with a victory on penalties against the USL First Division (second tier) Rochester Raging Rhinos on Aug. 24 after a 1-1 draw.
Chicago's Samuel Caballero gave his team a lead in the 34th minute, but Doug Miller equalized for Rochester in the 60th minute. The Fire's perfect session of penalty kicks was finished off by captain Chris Armas, who curled a shot inside the right post to send the "Men in Red" through to their sixth semifinal appearance in eight chances in Open Cup play.
"We respected Rochester from the opening whistle, and they were a tough team tonight," said Fire head coach Dave Sarachan. "We knew that it could go that far and I was proud of my team after conceding a goal for hanging in there. We were a little bit whipped, but we just wanted to keep our composure during the overtime and make sure we didn't give up a second goal. I'm proud of my team and pleased to be advancing."
Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Zach Thornton, Logan Pause (Jack Stewart 77), Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero, Gonzalo Segares (Will John 110), John Thorrington (Chad Barrett 71), Chris Armas, Thiago, Ivan Guerrero, Lubos Reiter, Will Johnson.