LA Galaxy

Fire blow two-goal lead in draw at LA

Fire blow two-goal lead in draw at LA

Through 45 minutes it appeared the Chicago Fire were going to cruise to a first road win of 2017.

However, the LA Galaxy scored on a pair of corner kicks in the second half to rally for a 2-2 draw at the StubHub Center on Saturday.

David Accam was the creator of both of the Fire’s goals. He weaved into the box in the 11th minute and set up Nemanja Nikolic open in the box. Nikolic’s first touch got away from him, but he was able to win the race to the loose ball and was tripped by Jelle Van Damme for a penalty kick. Accam converted from the penalty to give the Fire (3-3-3, 12 points) its first road lead of the year.

Four minutes later Accam got an assist to go with his goal when he hit Nikolic in stride on a counterattack. Nikolic scored on his first touch for his sixth goal of the season.

LA (2-5-2, 8 points) didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half and hadn’t scored in its previous two matches, but was able to get back in the match from corner kicks.

Daniel Steres’ glancing header following a corner kick in the 56th minute got LA on the board. Nine minutes later Giovani Dos Santos tied the match by sliding in to finish a Dave Romney flick header following a corner kick. Those were LA’s only two shots on target, meaning the Galaxy didn’t put a shot on target from open play.

The Fire nearly went back ahead with a Luis Solignac header later in the half, but Brian Rowe was able to get a hand on it and push it onto the crossbar. Nikolic also put the ball in the net in the 94th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Coach Veljko Paunovic made two changes in the starting lineup. Both goalkeeper Jorge Bava and right back Michael Harrington were benched for the first time this season. Matt Lampson, who made 11 starts last season, started in goal and was not credited with a save. Drew Conner played at right back in his first career start. Conner was replaced by Jonathan Campbell in the 75th minute.

The Fire finished the three-game road trip with one point. Next Saturday the Fire return home to play the Seattle Sounders.

Preview: Fire hope to get first road win against struggling LA on CSN

Preview: Fire hope to get first road win against struggling LA on CSN

So far the Chicago Fire are having the same troubles on the road this season.

The Fire are 0-3-1 on the road in 2017 and have lost the last three away from Toyota Park. There will be another chance to snap that streak Saturday on CSN when the Fire travel to take on the LA Galaxy. Coverage begins at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

This might be the best chance yet for the Fire (3-3-2, 11 points) to pick up a win on the road. The Galaxy (2-5-1, 7 points) are tied for the most losses in the league and have more home losses (3) than any other team.

Perennially, the Galaxy have been one of the premier teams in Major League Soccer, but shed some big players and coach Bruce Arena, now coaching the U.S. national team, in the offseason. Gone are designated players Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, regular starter on defense A.J. DeLaGarza and veteran depth Mike Magee, Alan Gordon, Jeff Larentowicz and Leonardo.

In have been American national teamer Jermaine Jones and European additions Romain Alessandrini and Joao Pedro. Jones and Pedro have been part of a midfield that hasn’t quite clicked yet while Alessandrini has been a bright spot with four goals and two assists.

“They have good quality, (but) they are struggling at this moment and we can take advantage of that,” Fire defender Johan Kappelhof said. “They didn’t win home games the last couple of games.

“I think we have a good chance, but we have to be aware of their quality up front.”

In addition to Alessandrini, the Galaxy feature Mexican star Giovani Dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, another U.S. national teamer, in the attack. Zardes has yet to score in four games back from a knee injury.

Dos Santos is off to a slow start with one goal in seven starts. Last season the Mexican had 14 goals and 12 assists.

“He’s got quality, he’s got pace, he’s got a good shot,” Kappelhof said of Dos Santos. “We have to avoid his shots and have each other’s back at the back because of his pace and don’t give him the confidence to come in the game.”

The Galaxy have failed to score in the past two matches, both which came at home. The last of those was a scoreless draw against winless Philadelphia.

This is the last home game for LA before a four-game road trip, which Fire coach Veljko Paunovic thinks will make LA more desperate for a win against the Fire.

“I think it’s going to be very tough,” Paunovic said. “Their mindset is going to be to win this game no matter what, which propels the different energy and motivation on the team which can work both ways. If that converts to the pressure for them, that’s something that we should take advantage of.”

The Galaxy are struggling in general and the Fire have struggled on the road. Kappelhof thinks the Fire showed improvement in the 2-1 loss at the New York Red Bulls, which was a much more competitive game than the 3-1 loss at Toronto the previous week.

“I think we improved from the Toronto game,” Kappelhof said. “We did better. I think we deserved more points. We created some chances and we have to continue like this in away games.”

The game also marks the return to LA for Fire midfielder Juninho. Juninho was a part of the Galaxy's run of three MLS Cup titles in four years (2011, 2012, 2014) and played six seasons with the Galaxy.

The Fire enter the match with a relatively clean bill of health while the Galaxy will be without defender Robbie Rogers (left ankle), midfielder Sebastian Lletget (foot) and goalkeeper Clement Diop (hip).

Chicago Fire at LA Galaxy

Where: StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.

TV: CSN

When: Coverage begins at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (3-3-2, 11 points), Galaxy (2-5-1, 7 points)