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Galaxy dominate Fire in 2015 MLS opener

Jose Villarreal LA Galaxy (USA TODAY Sports)

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports


CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy raised their fifth MLS Championship banner on Friday night, and then notched their first three points of the season, knocking off a lackluster Chicago Fire, 2-0, before a raucous sold out crowd of 27,000 on a balmy night at the Stub Hub Center.

The Galaxy struck first in the 65th minute when Stefan Ishizaki fired a hard curling cross that flummoxed the Chicago centerbacks. The ball was mis-hit by Jeff Larentowicz and deflected off Lovel Palmer before dropping to the foot of hard-charging Jose Villarreal. The 22-year-old, who had struggled with his passing at times during the evening, did not miss this time, beating Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson with a sharp left-footed blast far post low to give the Galaxy all the advantage they would need on the evening.

“It feels good,” said a low-key Villarreal after the match. “The defenders had some miscommunication, and they left it, like a peach, as they say, it was perfect for me, and I just had to slap it in.”

“He obviously played well, got the winning goal, really good game,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena when asked about Villarreal’s performance. “He’s a good player.  He dedicates himself to being a good professional.”

Robbie Keane doubled the Galaxy lead in the 81st minute when he pulled down a headed back pass from Baggio Husidic, off a long ball from Omar Gonzalez, and slammed it into the back of the net past a diving Johnson.

Despite the ample pageantry, the opening match of the 2015 MLS season was not always pretty. Chicago struggled to find any rhythm all night, and even the Galaxy looked ragged at times, failing to connect passes often early in the match.

The Galaxy subbed on several veterans beginning at the hour mark, and the presence of AJ De La Garza, Husidic, and Alan Gordon seemed to tighten up the Galaxy play. The final fifteen minutes of the match was an all out assault on the Chicago net, and the Fire were forced to resort to physical play to contain the league champions as glimpses of their MLS Cup form emerged.

While the Galaxy attack wasn’t always sharp, the LA back-line picked up right where it left off last season, when they were the stingiest defense in the MLS. The night’s clean sheet came despite a surprise start from backup keeper Brian Rowe, who faced few challenges from the ineffective Fire attack.

“The defense did a great job tonight,” said Rowe. “Always dropping back, helping out.  It makes my job a lot easier.”

If any player rose to the occasion, it was Stefan Ishizaki. Now in his second year in MLS, the former Swedish international looked exceptionally comfortable, and at times even daring, pressing higher into the Galaxy attack than he has in the past.  The Galaxy fired off 29 crosses in the run of play, and seventeen of those crosses came from the foot of Ishizaki. He earned the assist on the game-winning goal, and appears poised to take a much more prominent role in the Galaxy offense in 2015.

“A year ago I came in not as fit as I wanted to be” said Ishizaki after the match. “This year I’ve felt great all preseason, and my fitness level is way higher than it was last year. I feel a lot better, a lot more comfortable. I think this season I can make a much bigger impact.”

The Fire rarely threatened. Their best opportunity came in the 57th minute when Quincy Amarikwa slipped in momentarily behind the Galaxy defense and took a straight run at Rowe. Robbie Rogers tracked Amarikwa down and locked up with him and finally poked the ball away. Amarikwa went down inside the penalty area, but referee Jair Marrufo waved it off.  The Chicago bench erupted in outrage, but Amarikwa did not protest the call.

The new-look Fire will still have much work to do to if they hope to improve on their tepid performance of last season and reach the MLS playoffs this year. The Fire will host the Vancouver Whitecaps in their home opener at Toyota Park on Saturday, March 14.

The Galaxy will take the three points, and the momentary lead in the Western Conference, to Portland on Sunday, March 15, where they will face the Timbers.


  1. Random thoughts after reading through the comments.

    1. I love Keane but will tell you this, his demonstrative antics would get his behind whipped on my teams. Lead from the front but embarass me behind closed doors. Not on the pitch. It’s bothered me from day one. One of these days Ishizaki or someone else will do more than wave to him acquiescing his displeasure…
    2. Why do fans of other clubs rail on LA fans for doing what anyone would do following a victory after a championship season? Win and then talk shyt about LA fans.
    3. My friend lives in Belgium and watched the game on the new tv feed to Europe. He is Belgian and we met at a gaLAxy game while he was on vacation last season. He made one comment, to my other amigo who is British living in Puerto Vallarta, via Facebook, that the pace of the game is still slow… I hope that isn’t a true indication of the impression Euros will have on our product.
    4. Donovan is beloved in Mexico except when he was in the REAL el tri… Red white and blue! Lol
    5. Yallop is not the answer Fire fan… Sorry
    6. Pissed me off too that opening game is only televised on Spanish speaking stations… Wake up English speaking America, football is for real (and I don’t mean the NFL)…
    7. Oh yea, Belgium also noted a characteristic of our version of the game that he liked… No diving, no whining to the referee, and the players took the knock, got up and kept playing… He is hoping that Europe catches on to that. Me too. The footie may be better there but I won’t watch it… Drama queens all

    Ok, I’m done…

    • Mr. Blue,
      1. The EPL is popular all over the world in large part because of their pedal to the metal,more or less all out aggression for 90 minutes approach. I’m not sure MLS can be so aggressive, partly because of the climate and travel and partly because MLS squads in general seem less stable and cohesive than most highlight EPL squads.

      If it was always the Galaxy, Seattle, and the Revs in ideal conditions and at their best being shown then maybe. As a neutral observer, I’ve never found watching games in the summer heat to be particularly attractive.

      2. I started watching the USWNT in the 90’s for one simple reason, the almost complete absence of the agonizing rolling around and simulated death spirals that were so prevalent in the mens’ game at the time. I’m not so sure they are as bad anymore in the men’s game or maybe we all just got used to it.

  2. Anxiously awaiting the season opener, what disappointed me the most was that the first Galaxy home game was limited to being televised on lightweight UNIMAS, only in Spanish. Since I had to record it, I neglected to set the SAP on the DVR and wound up having to watch it in Spanish. You’d think in the LA market that Galaxy would at least have an English language telecast for their season opener. I don’t give a darn about the Spanish part during the run of play as I get enough of it for relevancy but I enjoy the discussion in pre game and halftime also and wanted it in English.

    Can you imagine the NFL or MLB telecasting opening day only on a lightweight Spanish channel?

  3. From the comments it lo0oks like a lot of people got to see the game. Even though I have a whole lot of channels on Direct TV including their sports package, I couldn’t get it on UniMas which was listed as the only outlet. Did I miss a channel elsewhere?

    • game was also on univision deportes…in spanish, with english SAP….landon was a guest during the pre-game…i didn’t realize how much spanish he actually speaks….

      • Despite the popular misconception,everything I’ve ever seen indicates that Landon is beloved and respected in Mexico.

        They seem to love that he speaks spanish and it always made him a first choice interview for UNIVISION and the like.

      • beachbum,

        You are making too much of that incident.

        I’m sure when he was playing against them the Mexicans hated him since he was the “Mexicutioner”, but their media always reacted very positively to him and his commercials in Spanish

        LD does not come across as a pr++k like Rafa, who figuratively p++ses on USMNT fans.

        I have no doubt he would be very popular if he
        decided to unretire and play for a Mexican outfit like TJ or America, if that were possible.

  4. Walker was fine, others will be too, but I missed Marcelo and it will take a bit to get over not seeing him out there. RSL got a good one from us.

  5. i saw shaun maloney…he looked like he was bloated…how could that guy look so out of shape when england was already in season when he joined the fire…not a fan of either team but LA looked pretty strong and the fire looked a mess… yallop who decided that a young player like benji joya wasn’t good enough?? at least benji would’ve looked in better shape than maloney….

    • That’s because Galaxy supporters don’t care about “euro cup.” We care about the MLS Cup. No shame in not having an inferiority complex.

  6. The good thing about this game is that it takes the option of buying the MLS package right off the the table for me. No way I’m spending any extra money on this.

    • Definitely below the standard level of play. There were flashes, but it was a below average game for the league by some distance. Reminds me of Arsenal and Man U at the beginning of the premier league season – it takes them a month or two to get better.

      • No. I expected soccer players to be able to make soccer plays. You know, passing, dribbling, trapping……. is that too much to ask?

      • no, it’s not too much to ask. funny thing is, they were doing all that last night, so i’m assuming you already had your mind made up. *shrug*

    • Chaz, so do you feel you made an EDUCATED DECISION by judging a entire professional league after solely watching the season-opening game; between 5th worst team last season and the defending champ having lost its best pivotal player? interesting…..

  7. key word Dominate…….
    and Mr. Larentowicz you never clear a ball in the direction of your blind spot, with a weak clearance across you body, across your goal. Not like it mattered for the win but you own that one.
    To DC UNITED and BEN OLSEN watching…..”now that’s how you’re suppose to play, from now on THAT’S HOW YOU PLAY”!!!!

    • “you never clear a ball in the direction of your blind spot, with a weak clearance across you body, across your goal”


      • Altidore- 1 game 1 goal so far….. Defoe took a few matches to score… lol

      • Reminder: Altidore isn’t there so they have a higher probability to score a goal. See: Defoe’s goal total already compared to Altidore….but you already knew that.

      • no dollars, since the winter break Sunderland has scored 4 goals and given up 8 in 10 league games….. overall they’ve scored 23 goals in 28 matches….. the only team to score less is Aston Villa in a train wreck season. QPR, Burnley and Liecester City have all scored more goals…..

        Their leading scorer? Adam Johnson (midfielder) has 4 which is tied with Fletcher (fwd). defoe has 2…..

        these are hardly eye-popping stats….. no one can stop you from not liking Altidore, but using Defoes 2 goals in a bout 8 games as evidence is comical. Defoe is unanimously a better player than Jozy, no one’s arguing that. in terms of their “probability to score”, with or without Jozy their probability remains low. they have switched to a 442 which has shown slight results but still their lack of creativity in the midfield since Poyet took over has prevented their fwds from doing well.

  8. After keane scored, he kept making and obscene gesture and mouthing F-off. Does anyone know why and who it was directed towards?

    • imho, he was frustrated from a combo of team mate’s bad shots or someone not seeing him wide open. he’s always been a vocal and animated player tho

      • He was mad at Ishizaki’s attempt to score. instead of him passing a square ball for Keene to tap in, he tried to shoot from an angle only messi could score.

      • With Henry leaving, Keane is campaigning for the vacant MLS Prima Donna King of the Ooshbags title. What a tool. He missed more chances by far than any of his teammates and he’s screaming at guys every time they don’t score or make the perfect pass.

      • “Should “implies that you are in a position to sit in judgement of Keane.

        Keane’s behavior is probably about normal for athletes in his world. It seem his behavior is what passes for leadership and appears to be accepted by his teammates.

      • he knows gerrard is coming in to be the new captain and is trying to look as the big shot of mls

      • With Henry leaving, Keane is campaigning for the vacant MLS Prima Donna King of the Douchebags title. What a tool. He missed more chances by far than any of his teammates and he’s screaming at guys every time they don’t score or make the perfect pass.

    • As a Galaxy supporter I was very pleased to see Keane demanding better from his team mates. His antics were not against the referee, or the opponent, but relfected his expectation that the Galaxy raise the bar even higher. The way he took the goal, with pure venom, focused in top class technique was an example of what he wants from his team mates. He demonstrated what he would have done if Ishi had played to him on the first goal, and what he expects from his team mates going forward.

      Now that I have seen Keane in action for a few years, I can see why he moved around from team to team. He seems to expect more each year of himself and his team mates. At other clubs they don’t seem to appreciate it. I think he has found a club in the Galaxy what wants the same thing he wants.

      Bruce is a great man manager. I expect he’ll be able to manage Keane’s passion. We shall see.

    • Robbie Keane should at least explain himself since it was done on the field during the game… To whom was the comment intended and why? How did Keane address this after the match?

      • Players use the F word on the field? During a game?

        FIFA should look into this and ban Keane for life. They should start a campaign named “F++K ! NO!”.

        Obviously Keane has serious mental problems.

  9. I agree about Palmer and Larentowicz, but then Larentowicz was not in the right spot for Kean´s goal.

    Maloney looked overweight. Is that possible?

    A rather dismal game to start the season.

  10. The referee who gave him the YC must be the only person in the stadium who actually saw Shaun Maloney all night.

    • Exactly. Biggest disappointment of the evening. He struck me as one of those DPs that comes in thinking soccer in the US will be a walk and is rudely awakened to a better level of play than he expected. Not that the level was particularly high last night (definitely an out-of-form beginning to the season), but there were plenty of places where defenders arrived way faster than he seemed to expect.

      • That is what you call reading way too much into it.
        How about new guy, new team, new league , new country or did you think he was instantly going to make everyone forget Henry?

      • “or did you think he was instantly going to make everyone forget Henry?” lol….

  11. The ball didn’t deflect off Larentowicz. It fell to his feet, he turned to try and clear it and he fired it off of Lovell Palmer, who was standing right next to him instead of marking the runner on the back post.

    • wrong, he tried to clear a ball in his own box while running towards his goal. a better decision would be just play it out for a corner. sure Palmer was too close but Larentowicz should have just cleared it into the stands. he didn’t “[turn] to try and clear it and he [fire] it off of lovell.” he tried to kick it behind himself which is highly frowned upon as a defender

      • I had the same discussion earlier, and I used this exact same reason.

        Even if it didn’t hit Palmer, it still would’ve went to Jose.
        No way in defending 101 does someone make this mistake. He had several options, and he chose the hardest one which resulted in a goal.

      • Even if it didn’t hit Palmer, it still would’ve GONE to Jose.

        Will Americans ever be able to speak their own language correctly?

      • You are assuming Shawn is an American and that English is his first language.

        He could be a traitorous dual national, maybe one of the non real German Americans.

        Or he could be Vladimir Putin on SBI just for fun.

      • I think we got the habit from the British, who say it all the time.

        We look up to them for everything.

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