LA Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 0 | MLS Match Recap
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy weren't sharp to start the post-Landon Donovan era, but Jose Villarreal and Robbie Keane netted second-half goals to forge a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Fire following a dominant, if frustrating, display.
Villarreal tallied in the 65th minute Friday night with a most characteristic goal for so sloppy an MLS season opener, firing inside the left post after Jeff Larentowicz's clearance caromed off a teammate, and Keane finished a chip that bounced off the back of Baggio Husidic's head in the 81st as LA extended their StubHub unbeaten streak to 21 matches in all competitions.
The Galaxy built advantages in possession (53 percent, greater most of the evening) and shots (13-8) but struggled to create a coherent attack despite creating nearly two dozen opportunities.
Chicago dropped their third straight opener in Southern California -- they were bombed, 4-0, two years ago by the Galaxy, then lost last year against Chivas USA -- and have won their first game just once since 2002.
Donovan, who retired following the MLS Cup victory three months ago over New England, was on the Galaxy bench before the match and watched the game from a suite. He also took the field before the game to watch the unveiling of the Galaxy's championship banner from last season.
LA coach Bruce Arena gave unexpected starts to Brian Rowe in goal, Kenney Walker in central midfield and Villarreal on the left side of midfield, leaving players coming off preseason ailments -- Husidic, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, and defender A.J. DeLaGarza -- on the bench.
The Fire were without one of their three new Designated Players -- Ghanaian winger David Accam is sidelined with a groin strain suffered in a Feb. 22 friendly -- with Nigerian Kennedy Igboananike stationed up front and Scotsman Shaun Maloney atop the midfield diamond.
The Galaxy had far more of the game but little to show for it. They put just one shot on frame in the first half, a Villarreal free kick in the ninth minute that Sean Johnson knocked down, then pushed away, leading to a blistering Dan Gargan shot into the side-netting.
Too many passes were offline or of the wrong weight, and their best chances mostly died without a shot. Two exceptions: Villarreal's blast over the crossbar from 13 yards in the 40th minute, after Stefan Ishizaki and Juninho played a triangle past Jones, whom LA targeted repeatedly, and a first-time Keane shot from 20 yards that trickled wide of the left post just before halftime.
Chicago's only first-half opportunities were product of Galaxy miscues. Harry Shipp fired well wide after Juninho shanked a ball in the fifth minute and a Rowe clearance from a back pass caromed off Quincy Amarikwa and over the crossbar three minutes later.
The Fire accomplished little else, Larentowicz's and Gehrig's fine play aside, until after the break, creating one chance early in the second half -- Robbie Rogers ran down a streaking Amarikwa in the box -- and nothing of consequence after.
Villarreal, who won the start with an exceptional performance in LA's final preseason game, provided the lead after an Omar Gonzalez ball up the right wing found Ishizaki, who crossed to the middle of the box.
Larentowicz tried to volley the ball across his chest and behind him, but Lovel Palmer was next to him, and the ball went off his chest. Villarreal stepped to the loose ball and fired past Johnson.
LA had four more good chances in the next 15 minutes or so -- the best an Ishizaki shot past the left post that frustrated Keane, who might have finished a ball angled away from the goal, and a Gyasi Zardes try that Johnson knocked away -- before Keane secured the points.
Gonzalez again started the sequence, chipping a ball into the box. It went off the back of Husidic's head, and Keane crushed the ball past Johnson and into the net.
Chicago play their home opener next Saturday against Vancouver. The Galaxy visit Portland the following day.