The Fire have reached a point in the season where every match is critical and positive results are required in order to reach the MLS Cup playoffs. The Galaxy come into this weekend's match up struggling to regain the form that currently has them at the top of the MLS table. LA has lost three of their last four MLS matches beginning with the 3-2 loss to the Fire on August 1.
LA keeper Donovan Ricketts will be available for the match before leaving for the Jamaican National Team's game against Peru on Tuesday. Ricketts is foregoing the call up for the national team's Sunday game against Costa Rica in order to stay with Los Angeles.
The back line will feature the usual starters Todd Dunivant, Sean Frankin, Omar Gonzalez, and Leonardo. Midfielder Chris Birchall will not be available due to yellow card accumulation and Juninho will also miss the game while attending to personal matters in Brazil. That leaves Jovan Kirovski, Chris Klein, and rookie Michael Stephens to complete the midfield along with Landon Donovan. Edson Buddle and Mike Magee started the last match in Kansas City but Tristan Bowen has seen some time up front as well. Magee was not available for the first match-up against the Fire due to injury.
The Fire will be without Freddie Ljungberg and Marco Pappa due to yellow card accumulation and national team duty. Nery Castillo stayed in Chicago last weekend to work on regaining fitness so it will be interesting to see what role Castillo plays in Carlos De Cobos' line-up and/or substitution pattern. If Castillo is deemed fit enough to start his best position is playing the withdrawn striker role that Ljungberg has excelled in during the last few weeks. Whether or not Collins John gets another start remains to be seen, De Los Cobos may opt to start Brian McBride since he did not see action last week in Seattle.
Without Pappa the Fire's midfield will take on yet another look. John Thorrington returned from a long injury absense last week and popped up on the injury list again for this match although he has returned to full training. Logan Pause and Baggio Husidic should return to central midfield since Husidic is not really suited to play outside. Patrick Nyarko will be called upon to regain his playmaking form if the Fire are to be succesful. Mike Banner and Calen Carr are also in the mix.
Wilman Conde has returned after serving a one game yellow card suspension. He will pair centrally with CJ Brown who provided an inspired effort against Seattle. Dasan Robinson is still out with a hamstring injury so Steven Kinney should return at right back. I'm assuming the Gonzalo Segares will resume the starting spot at left back.
OUT: Dasan Robinson D (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: John Thorrington M (R ankle contusion), Freddie Ljungberg M (L calcaneal contusion)
OUT: David Beckham M (L achilles tendon surgery); QUESTIONABLE: Gregg Berhalter D (viral complications)
The Fire need to start gathering maximum points at home in a hurry. The Galaxy need to regain form as the season winds down or risk losing the Supporter's Shield to several teams now within striking distance of a once huge lead.
The Fire need to strike first as they did in the first match in order to keep LA on their heels. They do not appear comfortable having to play from behind since their attack is predicated on staunch defending and Landon Donovan counter attacks. Edson Buddle has also been quiet of late during LA's recent strugggles.
The Fire are hoping for more Save of the Week heroics from Sean Johnson in order to get a result.
Fire 1 Galaxy 1
Deris Umanzor is also unavailable due to national team duty.
David Beckham is expected to return next week against Columbus.
The Rest of the Weekend Picks
KC 1 Philly 1
Seattle 1 Revs 0
Crew 2 DC 0
FC Dallas 2 TFC 1
Rapids 2 Chivas 0
RSL 2 NY 1
SJ 2 Houston 2