The Chicago Fire had its biggest, most important win of the season on Saturday. The next step is proving it wasn’t a fluke.
The Fire finally snapped that road winless streak Saturday in Montreal. Wednesday against the LA Galaxy the Fire won’t be on the road, but the game is still a chance to prove the Fire have actually improved.
The match will be televised on CSN+ at 7:30 p.m. with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.
It may be hard to believe given how poorly the Fire started the season and that they’ve been in last place for most of the season, but a win would go a long way to putting the Fire (5-11-7, 22 points) within striking distance of a playoff spot. Chicago sits six points out of the final playoff spot with 11 matches remaining and four teams to catch.
Picking up that win won’t be easy because the Galaxy (9-4-11, 38 points) have the second fewest losses in the league. One of those losses came Saturday, a 1-0 defeat at New York City FC.
“We have to take advantage of this momentum,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We are playing against one of the best teams in the league.”
The Galaxy feature a number of big names, but Fire fans may recognize Mike Magee and Jeff Larentowicz before some of the stars. Both players return to Toyota Park for the first time after playing multiple seasons for the Fire.
The 31-year-old Magee has made 13 starts in 24 appearances and has six goals and four assists in 2016. Larentowicz has made 10 starts in 15 appearances.
The focus tactically for the Fire will likely revolve around the Galaxy’s talented attacking players. Beyond Magee, who won the 2013 MLS MVP with the Fire, Robbie Keane (7 goals in 13 matches this season), Gio Dos Santos (8 goals, 8 assists) and Gyasi Zardes (5 goals, 5 assists in 17 matches) are a handful.
The Galaxy have some similarities to the Fire’s last opponent, Montreal, in that they have big-name, high-producing forwards. In the case of the Impact it was Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti. However, Paunovic doesn’t see the Fire’s approach changing regardless.
“The similarity would be for sure the attitude and the approach to win the game we had against Montreal,” Paunovic said. “That’s going to be similar, but I believe even if we could play again the same game against Montreal it would be impossible to repeat. What I’m trying to say is that every game is different even if you’re trying to play the same lineup, even if you’re playing against the same lineup, the same everything, every game is different. Even if there are some similarities in their style in having experienced and quality guys in their team, it’s going to be different.”
Eric Gehrig will miss his second straight game due to a hamstring injury. Nick LaBrocca, who sat out against the Impact, was back in training this week, but not as a full participant. LaBrocca (quad), Arturo Alvarez (knee) and Razvan Cocis (knee) are all listed as questionable as of Monday. Fullback Robbie Rogers and goalkeeper Brian Rowe are questionable for LA.
Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy
When: 7:30 p.m. (coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)
Where: Toyota Park