Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010
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.
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