Fire look to avoid three-game slide vs. Galaxy

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Fire look to avoid three-game slide vs. Galaxy

Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010
12:33 PM
Associated Press

The Los Angeles Galaxy are paying for conceding early goals. The Chicago Fire are looking to capitalize on those struggles again.

The Galaxy will try to solve their defensive issues and avoid their longest losing streak in three years when they visit the stumbling Fire on Saturday night.

Los Angeles (13-5-4) still has the league's best record but has cooled of late, going 3-5-2 after starting the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak. The club's recent woes have been exacerbated by falling behind early.

The Galaxy are on a 1-3-1 stretch that has seen them allow eight goals -- six in the opening 20 minutes. Three of those scores came in a 3-2 home defeat to Chicago (6-7-6) on Aug. 1.

Los Angeles saw that trend continue last Saturday when it fell behind in the 12th minute and lost 2-0 to Kansas City. The Galaxy have been shut out in losing their last two games, falling to 0-5-1 when giving up the first goal.

Last year's MLS Cup finalists haven't dropped three in a row since a six-game slide from Aug. 9-Sept. 1, 2007.

"We have to figure out who we are and what we're all about and if we can do that we'll have a chance," defender Todd Dunivant told the team's official website. "If not, and we continue getting through these games like this, we're not going to win the championship -- and that's obviously our goal this year."

The Galaxy soon could get a boost after learning this week that star midfielder David Beckham is targeting next Saturday's game against East-leading Columbus for his return from an Achilles' tendon tear.

Until then, they'd like to see some production from Edson Buddle, the league leader with 13 goals -- two short of his career high set in 2008. The forward has scored once in four games and has been limited to two shots on goal over the last two.

"There is certainly a real strong defensive focus on Edson," coach Bruce Arena said. "I give the players who have been playing against him a lot of credit -- they've dealt with him real well."

Landon Donovan is also having a tough time offensively, going three games without a goal or an assist after getting five of each over the previous six.

The forward scored two goals in the last meeting with the Fire, and he had one in a 2-0 victory in the most recent matchup at Toyota Park on Aug. 19, 2009.

Chicago, five points out of playoff position, is trying to avoid a three-game slide after falling 2-1 at Seattle last Saturday when it gave up a stoppage-time goal.

Key absences could be an issue for the Fire, with Freddie Ljungberg suspended for yellow-card accumulation and fellow midfielder Marco Pappa with Guatemala for a pair of friendlies. Reserve defender Deris Umanzor was recalled to El Salvador.

Pappa's seven goals are a team high.

Brian McBride is entering the final 11 games of his career after announcing Friday that he'll retire at the end of the season. The former United States national team star has four goals for Chicago but none in the last eight games.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Why the next two weeks are crucial in MLS' Eastern Conference race

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USA TODAY

Why the next two weeks are crucial in MLS' Eastern Conference race

As Major League Soccer teams return from the Gold Cup break this week, the Chicago Fire are tied for the best record in the league.

The Fire’s 11-3-5 record, good for 38 points, has virtually assured the team of a playoff spot with nearly half the season still to play. Sports Club Stats has MLS playoff odds, which give the Fire and Toronto FC both a 99.9 percent chance of making the postseason.

So if the Fire’s baseline goal of making the playoffs is a near certainty at this point, what’s next? The Fire will want to strive for a first-round bye by getting one of the top two spots in the Eastern Conference. The Fire and Toronto are currently five points ahead of third-place New York City FC. Those two teams play tonight in The Bronx before the Fire head to Yankee Stadium to take on NYCFC on Saturday.

“We have to see how they play, obviously against Toronto, another direct opponent in our quest for the top of our conference,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said on Tuesday. “We’ll see how they do, how they’re going to play. We’ll see also what lineup they will play and that’s a good opportunity for us. We also know that that result is going to impact for sure their approach against us on Saturday.”

NYCFC could either fall out of the race or jump right into the thick of it in the next two weeks. Even after hosting both Toronto and the Fire in a four-day span, the David Villa-led team heads to Canada for another meeting with Toronto FC on July 30.

A look at the remaining schedule for the top three teams in the Eastern Conference standings shows the Fire may have the toughest road ahead. The table below shows how many games each team has at home and away as well as total games vs. teams currently in playoff spots and away games against those current playoff teams.

  Home games Away games Playoff teams At playoff teams
Fire 7 8 7 5
Toronto 8 7 6 3
NYCFC 8 7 8 2

The Fire have one fewer home game than Toronto and New York, but the real difference is in those away playoff games. The Fire have five such contests remaining (at NYCFC, at West-leading Sporting Kansas City, at Columbus, at San Jose and the season finale at Houston) and are 0-2-3 in those games so far this year.

Toronto has trips to Yankee Stadium and Toyota Park still on its schedule, but only one other road game against a playoff team. That's in Atlanta, the team that sits in fourth in the conference. TFC's disadvantage is that the Reds will be without Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley presumably for both of the key meetings with NYCFC while those two are competing in the Gold Cup knockout stage.

New York has two meetings, both one home and away, against the Fire and Toronto. In addition, NYCFC hosts three of the Western Conference's best teams in Sporting KC, Portland and Houston in September. With ground to make up in the standings, David Villa and Co. will need to do well in those games against the Fire and Toronto to fight for a first-round playoff bye and perhaps a long-shot run at the Supporters' Shield.

Regardless of what lies further ahead, the next two weeks should go a long way to shaping the race at the top of the Eastern Conference when the final stretch of the season approaches.

Fire's David Accam among MLS' All-Star snubs

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USA TODAY

Fire's David Accam among MLS' All-Star snubs

All-Star snubs are a tradition in American sports and Major League Soccer is no exception.

Even with four Chicago Fire players on the MLS All-Star Game roster, more than any other team, the Fire have one of the most notable snubs from the roster.

David Accam’s 10 goals and seven assists puts him among the league’s best in both categories. He is the only player to rank in the top five of both stats.

Accam not making the MLS All-Star roster is definitely a snub when considering Giovani dos Santos was included with six goals and an assist. That’s decent production, but doesn’t compare to Accam’s as a similar position.

“Decisions that we had to make on the roster wasn’t easy,” Fire and All-Star coach Veljko Paunovic said. “Obviously there are a lot of players around the league that deserve to be there and did very well, but there are also limitations and taking everything in consideration.”

Accam being one of the first names to make any list of All-Star snubs puts Paunovic in an awkward position. In the drama-filled world of social media, Accam retweeted mentions of his snub from former teammate Mike Magee and current LA Galaxy winger Ema Boateng.


Last week, before selections were made, Accam didn’t make it sound like getting into the All-Star Game was particularly important to him. He said it would be “a bonus,” but “nothing changes” if not. Now he’s retweeting players saying he was snubbed from the team.

Paunovic was asked about Accam’s exclusion on Tuesday.

“It’s not easy when you have to pick guys from your team and some guys that you also think they deserve to be there you can’t just because of the limitations,” he said. “That’s how it is. I think that’s important and everyone understands and that being an all-star, it’s not only being an all-star player for one game. You have to understand that all-star should be the habit. The stars, the great players always perform well. They always have the good approach and they do their best in every single game and that’s actually the mindset that everyone has to have even when there is no All-Star Game involved.”

Accam wasn’t the only one in MLS to take to social media to vent his frustration with not being included.


Kempin’s support for his former Sporting Kansas City teammate was retweeted by Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson.

Paunovic, who picked 11 of the remaining 13 spots after the Fan XI vote gave out the first roster spots earlier this month, admitted the complications of picking players based on a number of factors.

“It’s based on what we see in every game, every week, what we also see in the games we play in those teams that we picked the players,” Paunovic said. “Also we consider players who are playing on the same team who are the tandems in different teams and that’s also important so when you’re bringing the guys who never played together, actually it’s very important to see how many tandems or players that they played on different teams together maybe so they know each other. It’s important. You have only three days so you have to consider everything.”

Inevitably there will be players who get hurt or drop out for other reasons, so there might still be room for Accam, or the other notable snubs, to join the team before the MLS All-Star play Real Madrid Aug. 2 at Soldier Field.