By Alex Baker
Carson, Ca – Los Angeles Galaxy suffered their second humiliating home defeat of the week, going down 3-2 to the Chicago Fire on Sunday. Landon Donovan scored twice and the Chicago’s newest acquisition, Freddie Ljungberg (photo) was subbed in late as the Fire defeated the league leaders on a sunny afternoon in front of a home crowd of just over 17,000. First Half Edson Buddle could have given the Galaxy an immediate lead when he found space in front of goal and shot in the 2nd minute. However Chicago keeper Sean Johnson blocked his shot. Galaxy’s patchy form of the past few weeks began to resemble more of a downward spiral as they then proceeded to give up two goals in the first five minutes of the match. First Marco Pappa took advantage of a lapse in Galaxy’s defense, outmaneuvered keeper, Donovan Rickets and slid the ball into the back of the net. The Fire scored again less than a minute later when Collins John broke down the left side, cut inside and put another shot past Rickets to make it 2-0. The Fire scored again in the 19th minute when Mike Banner picked up on a rebounded shot that had been saved by Rickets, rocketing it home from close range, to make it 3-0. With less than 20 minutes played, the hosts were effectively on the ropes, as they struggled to engineer the response. But by the half hour mark it seemed as if the Galaxy were being outplayed and outpaced by the Fire in big and small ways all over the pitch. In the 31st minute Omar Gonzalez shot from distance, putting the ball just over the Fire’s crossbar. As the first half entered its last fifteen minutes, the Galaxy looked desperately short on ideas as to how to get themselves back into the match. In the 35the minute Jovan Kirovski found space inside the box and fired an angular shot that beat Johnson but went wide of the far post. However Galaxy’s luck changed a moment later when Todd Dunivant was brought down inside the box and the home side were awarded a penalty kick.
Landon Donovan (photo) stepped up to the mark and duly converted, bringing the Home Depot Center to life and giving the Galaxy the lifeline they so desperately needed.
As the first half wound down to a close, the Galaxy were finally beginning to show signs of life.
Galaxy began the second half enjoying a good spell of possession. That possession almost paid off in another immediate chance for Buddle who shot from close range forcing Johnson into a dynamic save.
Freddie Ljungberg was subbed in for Pappa in the 59th minute.
In the second half it was definitely the Galaxy who were asking the questions. However as forwards hesitated and crosses were misplayed, no answers were forthcoming. For all their second half possession, the host side created precious few chances.
Then in the 78th minute the Galaxy subbed Alex Cazumba in for Gregg Berhalter. A minute later they were awarded a corner. Donovan took it and in the ensuing scrap, Cazumba made the most of being tackled inside the box to earn the Galaxy another penalty kick.
For the second time in the match Landon Donovan stepped up to the mark and brought the Home Depot Center to life by rocketing the ball into the back of the Chicago Fire’s net.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, the Galaxy now looked as if they could smell blood, or at the least a chance to equalize. But try as they might the MLS leaders couldn’t conjure up anything resembling a goal from open play against the Chicago Fire. The Galaxy were awarded a corner in the 88th minute. Donovan placed it well but it was headed over crossbar by Buddle who was by now not having one of his better games.
Ljungberg, who’d looked listless and slow in his last few appearances for Seattle, was a different animal altogether tonight. He used his strength and speed to wreak havoc in the midfield. Breaking down the flank in the 89th minute, he looked very threatening before running the ball out of play.
As the game went into stoppage time, Johnson was shown a yellow card for time wasting. A moment later he handled the ball outside of his area, resulting in an indirect kick for Galaxy.
Landon Donovan was given one more last ditch chance to save the day when he was awarded an indirect free kick from just outside the box. He duly played it into the area but no one was able to get onto the end of it. The final whistle blew seconds later and the score remained 3-2 in favor of the Fire.
LA Galaxy remain at the top of the table however their once comfortable nine point lead has been cut to six. The Fire meanwhile are still hovering in the mid-to-low half of the table. Chicago next face Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls on August 8th while the Galaxy will be heading into the away leg of their two-game tie against the Puerto Rico Islanders in the CONCOCAF Champions L