BRIDGEVIEW Ill. – The LA Galaxy overcame several key absences to earn a crucial road win Sunday afternoon, defeating the suddenly struggling Chicago Fire 2-1 in front of 18,203 fans at Toyota Park.
Chad Barrett and Omar Gonzalez scored for the Galaxy, who played without injured attacker Landon Donovan and suspended midfielders David Beckham and Juninho. It was more than enough for LA, who outlasted a late goal from Chicago's Dominic Oduro to earn the win.
Barrett put the Galaxy ahead in the 42nd minute. Forward Miguel Lopez crossed a ball in from the right, finding Barrett completely wide open at the penalty spot. The former Fire striker did the rest, calmly taking a touch before slotting his shot inside the left post and past goalkeeper Jon Conway, who started in the Chicago net in place of typical starter Sean Johnson.
Barrett started his MLS career with the Fire and spent three-and-a-half years with the club before he was traded to Toronto. He scored three goals in four matches against Chicago with the Reds before adding another one as a member of the Galaxy on Sunday, and found the back of the net for the first time with LA since coming over from Toronto in an offseason trade.
Gonzalez doubled the lead in the 72nd minute, rising above the Fire defense to head a Lopez corner kick home from eight yards out.
Oduro, however, pulled one back with his first goal in a Fire kit in the 89th. The Ghanaian forward took on Gonzalez on the right wing, rounding the center back in the box before blasting a shot past keeper Donovan Ricketts and inside the far post.
The Fire pushed hard for an equalizer after Oduro’s strike, but couldn’t quite find one, dropping their record to 1-1-3 and extending their losing streak to three games. LA improve to 3-1-3 with the result.
Galaxy Manager Bruce Arena made five changes to the side that drew Toronto FC on Wednesday, inserting Frankie Hejduk, Chris Birchall, Michael Stephens, Paolo Cardozo and Lopez into the lineup.
Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos made three changes to the squad that lost 4-2 at Portland on Thursday, relegating Johnson, defender Dasan Robinson and winger Patrick Nyarko to the bench in favor of Conway, Josip Mikulic and Davis Paul.
The sides traded chances in the first half, with both coming close to scoring on several occasions.
The Fire had a good opportunity in the 18th minute. Forward Diego Chaves flicked a long ball into space and fellow striker Gaston Puerari ran onto it, sprinting past Galaxy defender Leonardo for a one-on-one with Ricketts. Puerari’s chip from the top of the box beat the Jamaican keeper but didn’t go in, sailing just wide of the right post.
Chicago had another one-on-one with Ricketts in the 29th minute. This time it was defender Gonzalo Segares who got behind the Galaxy backline, running onto a Puerari through ball on the left side. But the Costa Rican left back couldn’t find net, dragging his low left footer wide of the far post.
The Galaxy had a goal controversially disallowed in the 35th. Barrett powered a left footer in from the top of the arc, but it was called back when the referee ruled that offside forward Miguel Lopez interfered with the play by letting the shot roll through his legs.
Both teams came close to scoring in the 65th. Segares cleared LA midfielder Mike Magee’s header off the line and the Fire quickly launched a counter, playing a long ball to Chaves to start the attack. The Uruguayan forward dribbled into LA's box and got a good look at goal, but sent his effort from the right side well wide of the net.
Fire defender Cory Gibbs went out injured in the 70th minute; one minute after Chicago used their third and final sub. The injury forced the Fire to play the final 20 minutes down a man. The Fire lost for the second time in four days after they fell to the Portland Timbers 4-2 in the Timbers' first-ever MLS game at JELD-WEN Field on Thursday.
LA -- Chad Barrett 1 (Miguel Lopez 1) 42
LA -- Omar Gonzalez 1 (Miguel Lopez 2) 72
CHI -- Dominic Oduro 1 (Jalil Anibaba 1) 89
LA Galaxy -- Donovan Ricketts, Frankie Hejduk (Bryan Jordan 79), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, Todd Dunivant, Chris Birchall, Michael Stephens, Paolo Cardozo (Sean Franklin 68), Mike Magee, Chad Barrett (Juan Pablo Angel 77), Miguel Lopez.
Substitutes Not Used: A.J. DeLaGarza, Brian Perk, Josh Saunders.
Chicago Fire -- Jon Conway, Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares, Marco Pappa, Michael Videira (Dominic Oduro 59), Logan Pause, Davis Paul (Patrick Nyarko 46), Diego Chaves, Gaston Puerari (Orr Barouch 69).
Substitutes Not Used: Yamith Cuesta, Dan Paladini, Bratislav Ristic, Sean Johnson.
CHI -- Michael Videira (caution; Reckless Tackle) 10
LA -- Mike Magee (caution; Reckless Foul) 31
LA -- Michael Stephens (caution; Reckless Foul) 63
LA -- Frankie Hejduk (caution; Reckless Tackle) 73
CHI -- Dominic Oduro (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 93+
Referee: Niko Bratsis
Referee's Assistants: Colin Arblaster; Mike Kampmeinert
4th Official: Edvin Jurisevic
Time of Game: 1:53