The Chicago Fire are heading to Los Angeles for the final leg of their three game away stint. The Men In Red were unable to secure any points in either New York or Toronto and have only earned one point on the road in 2017. The Fire are facing a Galaxy team growing into a new era, having seen personnel turnover both on the field and on the sidelines. LA leads the all-time series between the two clubs with the Fire posting a 15-20-5 record. The Fire have just six MLS regular season wins away from home against the Galaxy. The big storylines of the weekend include Juninho’s return to LA and the all-star midfield matchup.
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire: Stars at the Center
Midfielders in the House
Chicago’s new soccer ambassador, Bastian Schweinsteiger, went to his first baseball game midweek. Hopefully he learned something at Wrigley Field, because the Galaxy’s Jermaine Jones will be playing hardball on Saturday night. Jones, the versatile USMNT midfielder, is an intense competitor and can be a tough tackler. The German born American is now on his third MLS team in as many years and is becoming prone to dramatics and red cards.
Putting a mark on the world cup champion isn’t something to put past the 35-year-old. Any duels between the former German national team compatriots should be a compelling spectacle. The Fire’s ability to play the ball through the middle of the park and not just over the top will be a great test and gauge of the Fire’s strength in the middle.
Dax McCarty is fresh off his return to Red Bull Arena and should be a force again this week in Los Angeles. The former NYRB captain contributed a moment of real quality as he assisted the Fire’s lone goal against the Red Bulls. McCarty and the homecoming Juninho will presumably be matched up with new Galaxy midfielder Joao Pedro and possibly the former Fire player Baggio Husidic.
Portuguese import Joao Pedro has started every game so far this season for the Galaxy. The Galaxy is only Pedro’s second club as the 24-year-old comes to the MLS from his boyhood club Vitoria Guimaraes. The young midfielder was enjoying his breakthrough first season in the clubs first team, playing 17 games and scoring a goal in the Primeira Liga, the Portuguese top division.
Juninho Returns to Stub Hub
For the second game in a row a new Fire midfielder will be returning to familiar ground. Juninho spent six highly successful seasons playing for the Galaxy. The 28 year old racked up over 15,000 minutes on the field while collecting three MLS cups. “LA will always be in my heart, but the situation is different now where I have to defend the Fire to the end” said the Brazilian. “It will be an emotional game for myself but with my teammates and a good attitude we are going to go out and get some points”. Juninho has started six games for the Fire in 2017 and has tallied one assist.
Shaky ground out west
The Los Angeles Galaxy are off to a slow start to their 2017 season. The Galaxy have earned only seven points from their opening eight games with just two wins. First year head coach Curt Onalfo was previously the Galaxy II head coach for three years and was moved up when Bruce Arena moved on to the US national team. Onalfo is on the coaching hot seat already with a number of LA columnists calling for a change if results don’t turnaround quickly. While the Galaxy have started the season poorly, firing Onalfo would be a harsh move this early in the season considering all of the roster changes LA has had.
The Stubhub Center may be a desperate place after having seeing such a slow start from the Galaxy. Saturday’s game is the Galaxy’s final home game before they play four on the road. If LA start the game nervously the Fire could capitalize and put them on their heels. The Fire’s performance against the Red Bulls was far better than against Toronto so perhaps the Men In Red will be able to make a breakthrough and earn points in LA. The Fire will hope they are not the platform for a turnaround in form for LA as they were for TFC a few weeks ago. Finishing the chances they create and minimizing mistakes at the back will be vital for Chicago to get their first road win of 2017.