In a battle of two of the better teams in MLS, the injury-plagued Fire take on the red-hot L.A. Galaxy for the first time this year tonight at Toyota Park. Though both teams will be missing several marquee players, the match figures to be a good one and the Fire is looking forward to it.
"It'll be competitive," said Fire midfielder John Thorrington. "All these games mean a lot and it's a big game, a good occasion to get out there and play and I know we're excited for it and we just hope to put on a good show in front of the fans and get a good result."
The Fire will - yet again - be playing a match shorthanded, as defenders Tim Ward, Gonzalo Segares, and Daniel Woolard join forward Brian McBride on the injured list. Fortunately for the Fire though, the condition of Wilman Conde (hamstring) and John Thorrington (groin) seems to be improving as both players are listed as probable for the match.
The Galaxy - who fell 2-0 to the Seattle Sounders last Saturday - will be without midfielder David Beckham for the match, as he picked up a straight red card in the first half against the Sounders and will be serving a one-match suspension on Wednesday night. Regardless of Beckham's absence though, the Fire is taking the Galaxy seriously and they expect a tough game.
"They're not a one man show," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett when speaking about the Bruce Arena lead Galaxy. "They're a good team. They've shown it before Beckham was here when they had a good stretch of games and obviously when he came in he just blended right in. We expect a team that's going to come out and be very competitive and organized."
The Galaxy's main threat tonight will be winger Landon Donovan. Donovan - who is still getting over the swine flu - has played some of the best soccer of his career this year and if the Fire wants a result, they will have to contain the 27-year-old American.
"In my opinion on his day he's the best guy in the league," said Thorrington on Donovan, whom he played with at German team Bayer Leverkusen from 1999-2001. "I think Beckham or no Beckham any team with Landon on it is a dangerous one that can strike at any moment. In the past we've done a decent job, last year I think we did a decent job but you're not going to stop him. We have to at least try to contain him and keep him off the score-sheet though."
So with all of that said, there is only one thing left for me to do...
**The Prediction -**
This is a tough one for me to call. I think the teams are relatively evenly matched but - in a toss-up - I'll say this one goes the way of the Fire. I think the absence of Beckham and an under 100% Donovan will be too much for L.A. to overcome and the Fire will capitalize. I'll say that the final score is 2-1 Fire with Chris Rolfe getting another, Landon Donovan equalizing, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco getting the game winner.
Commenters Drew and Guillermo both correctly predicted the 2-0 Fire win on Sunday so, in a carry-over, this pick is worth double points - though as of now I'm not sure what the points count towards. But anyways, pick wisely...