PHOTO BY MICHAEL JANOSZ/ISIPhotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
Three goals inside of the opening 20 minutes by Marco Pappa, Collins John and Mike Banner were the difference as the Chicago Fire were able to hold off a Landon Donovan led comeback to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-2 on Sunday night.
The club's first home loss marks a poor run of form for Los Angeles as the club has only earned two wins over the past month of play. Over the past seven matches, the club has surrendered 14 goals after starting the season with 14 shutouts. With their formerly great play failing them, the Galaxy have begun to ask what's next?
"We have to look at it and just get back to the basics. We know that we’re a quality team and there are times in the season where things aren’t going your way and now is that time, said Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter. "I don’t think it’s time to panic, I think it’s time to look at things and regroup.”
Before the confetti cannons finished blowing to signal the start of the match, the Fire jumped on the Galaxy for two goals from Marco Pappa in the 4th and Collins John's tally just a minute later. Each goal catching the vaunted Galaxy defense flat footed on the counter attack. Chicago would add a third in the 20th minute when midfielder Mike Banner was able to clean up a Donovan Ricketts save and put the Fire into a lead that they would not relinquish.
Despite going down early, the Galaxy were able to quickly regroup thanks to a pair of penalty kick goals by Donovan in the 37th and 81st minutes. However, much like in their game against the Islanders, the real story were the chances not completed. With the Fire seemingly content to defend, the Galaxy were able to place numerous shots on frame, but the team's once stellar finishing eluded them.
"Sometimes it happens like that. They had four chances and scored three goals and I’d like to say that a lot of it has to do with luck, but I think those things happen for a reason," said Donovan. "Maybe our attitude isn’t right, maybe we’re not as focused on our jobs and we’re focused on other things, off the field too much, and that’s coming back to bite us right now."
With the Galaxy dominating possession throughout the match, the Fire were extremely efficient with their chances capitalizing on three of their four shots on goals. With Chicago efficiency giving the Fire the lead, it was up to rookie Goalkeeper Sean Johnson to make the big saves to keep the Fire ahead as the Galaxy made their comeback. Making his first start for Chicago in place of Andrew Dykstra, the Fire goalkeeper made four saves, but none bigger than a diving save on an Alan Gordon header in the 85th minute to halt the Galaxy come back for good.
"Credit to them because they kept coming and they came down to the last few minutes, but we were able to hold strong," said Johnson. "Getting a win like this particularly against a LA was just great for my confidence as we go forward."
The match marked the first match for recent addition the Fire, midfielder Freddie Ljungberg. The midfielder entered in the 62nd minute, but was unable to make an impact on the match for the Fire, appearing disconnected with his new teammates. Despite the early troubles, the Swede is upbeat about his future with the Fire.
"i've only seen my teammates for 24 hours, but they really wanted me to play today and next week I'll be able to train with the team and get to know the players," "We were under pressure when I got in and credit to the players for winning against two penalties and its just happy days."
The loss puts the Galaxy at the 19-3-4 on the season, just six points ahead of Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew for the Supporters Shield. Chicago is now at 20 points with a record of 5-5-5 and will now take on Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls next week. For Los Angeles, the club will hope that the new will bring them success, but they face a stiff test against the Puerto Rico Islanders on Wednesday.
Following the match, the Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena reflected on week in which teams that he coaches conceded 12 goals. Despite the poor results, Arena was able to look on the bright side.
"For me personally, I've had better weeks in my life, but the way that I look at it, it can only get better."