The Fire escape from LA with a 3-2 win and all three points despite a second half that saw the Galaxy control possession for most of the last 45 minutes. Chicago can take pleasure in finally finishing opportunities when presented. Marco Pappa and Collins John scored the first two goals as the Los Angeles defense was caught too high playing for the offside call.
The second half was marred by awful bunkering and questionable substitutions. Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa were subbed out in the 58th and 65th minutes respectively which effectively removed the Fire's best hopes of maintaining possession or providing a dangerous enough counter to make Los Angeles pay for sending numbers forward.
That being said, the Galaxy still needed two penalty calls to get on the board as a result of outstanding goalkeeping from rookie Sean Johnson. Johnson's save in the waning minutes on Alan Gordon's header should earn a Save of the Week award and a starting position as the number one goalkeeper. Johnson made several classy saves during the match and controlled the penalty area with sure handed confidence and control.
The second penalty call was dubious to say the least as Silviu Petrescu ruled a handball against Krzyzstof Krol as he was running toward the goal and twisting his body to avoid the ball. Johnson barely missed getting a hand on Landon Donovan's second penalty kick attempt. Some have speculated that the penalty call was a result of a foul on Dasan Robinson. If that was the case, the call by Petrescu was even more heinous.
Finishing three scoring chances in the first half fulfilled one of the missing ingredients throughout much of the first half of the season. The Fire impressively held a 3-0 lead after twenty miinutes against the best team in the league this year. Collins John looked more active than he has been since the first two games of the year. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come from John as he will surely benefit from playing in front of Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg in the near future.
As a ugly as the second half was, going into Los Angeles and handing the Galalxy their first MLS home loss is an impressive feat which bodes well for the second half.
Sean Johnson GK (8) - Johnson was outstanding throughout the match. His big save on Edson Buddle in the second minute set the tone for the day. If Buddle had scored the match certainly would have been played much differently. Add in the fact that the rookie keeper was starting his first MLS match on the road against the best team in the league and you have a man of the match worthy performance. As Luis would say, Johnson was El Mero Mero hands down.
Dasan Robinson (5) - Seemed to struggle late in the second half, possibly due to an injury of some sort which was alluded to during the broadcast.
Provided the pass that freed Collins John for the second goal.
Krzyzstof Krol (5) - Got unjustly called for the handball penalty on the second LA goal but played decently. Took a studs up tackle in the 66th minute that could have easily been a red card.
CJ Brown (6) - The Galaxy had several near miss chances but every shot was contested by Fire defenders. Edson Buddle rarely had clear uncontested chances after the shot in the second minute. When Buddle did have a chance in the 50th minute Johnson came up big again.
Wilman Conde (6) - Conde was solid for most of the match although he did miss a tackle which led to a Galaxy break out in the 40th minute. The Fire did not allow a goal from the run of play despite having to defend for the entire second half.
Logan Pause (6) - Did well to snuff two Buddle runs in the first half. The midfield was overrun in the second half but that was a result of Nyarko and Pappa being removed from the match.
Baggio Husidic (6) - Provided the assist on the first goal from Pappa. Like most everyone else his first half was much better than the second. Was substituted in the 75th minute after an apparent leg injury forced him off the pitch.
Marco Pappa (7) - Curiously subbed out for Ljungberg in the 58th minute although he had a very active match. Scored the first goal and his rocket shot led to the second goal. His finish on the first goal was clinical.
Mike Banner (6) - Scored the third goal on a nice touch after Rickett's initial save on Pappa's shot. Struggled mightily to maintain possesion in the second half.
Patrick Nyarko (6) - Not as dangerous as we've seen him but his presence was definitely felt. Several nice runs in the first half and early in the second provided much needed possession. Backpedalled awkwardly on a penalty kick foul which made the contact look worse than it actually was. Possession disappeared after he was subbed out in the 65th minute. Provided the pass that freed Collins John for the second goal. Raised to 6.
Collins John (6) - Much more active than he has been in quite some time. His goal provided a snapshot of exactly what the Fire thought they were getting when they signed him. Hustled and tracked back but he was offsides numerous times throughout.
Freddie Ljungberg (5) - Came on in the 58th minute for Pappa and played up top behind Collins John. The move seemed odd since Klopas projects that Ljungberg would play centrally behind the strikers. Subbing him in for Banner or Husidic would have seemed to make more sense if he's going to play the central role for the Fire. Didn't do a whole lot since the Fire were mired in bunker and defend mode with little offensive support.
Deris Umanzor (5) - Subbed into the match in the 65th minute for Patrick Nyarko. According to the announcers there may have been some confusion on the field about the substitution since Robinson was apparently hurting by then. Umanzor played on the left side of midfield but provided little in terms of ball control.
Steve Kinney (5) - Entered the game in the 75th minute for Husidic. Kinney was probably coming on for Robinson originally but the injury to Husidic necessitated the change for the midfielder.
Silviu Petrescu (3) - An abysmal performance from Petrescu allowed the Galaxy to crawl back into the match on penalty kicks. The first call was justifiable but the second was just plain awful. Petrescu also missed the clear definition of a straight red when Dema Kovalenko charged into Krol with his studs clearly showing while taking a shot to the defenders leg that could have easily caused a serious injury.
Fox Soccer Channel Broadcast
Brian Dunseth isn't exactly a top flight play by play guy and makes one sorely miss Max Bretos. Without Bretos we were robbed of five "Yeeaaaaaa" goal calls. At least Christian Miles was on the sideline and not in the booth.
Fox's post game show with Todd Grisham and Christopher Sullivan is usually pretty decent with league highlights and interviews with both coaches. They also interviewed Sean Johnson.
The Fire return to Toyota Park next Sunday in a Designated Player extravaganza. Nery Castillo, Freddie Ljungberg, Juan Pablo Angel, Thierry Henry and possibly Rafa Marquez could all be on an MLS pitch.