The back-to-back champs are looking for a three-peat. The LA Galaxy made that very clear on Sunday afternoon as they throttled the Chicago Fire 4-0 in front of 20,124 fans at the Home Depot Center. Mike Magee is currently the leader for the MLS Golden Boot as he scored three goals and showed no mercy for his hometown. Robbie Keane also added a goal just to make us feel even worse.
I don't really recommend reading the recap below, but if you're a masochist, here it is:
The Galaxy had the first real opportunity of the match in the 7th minute. The Chicago native Magee found space on the right side of the box, but his shot on goal was deflected out by Fire midfielder Dilly Duka. The resulting Juninho corner found the head of defender Omar Gonzalez, but he was unable to put a shot on target.
And the defending MLS champions were only getting started. In the 11th minute, Keane found space on the left side, but Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was up to the challenge and made his first challenging save of the season.
With 15 minutes gone, the Galaxy looked clearly like the more dominant side (They call this foreshadowing).
Fire midfielder Joel Lindpere got credit for the club's first shot on goal for the season in the 17th minute, but the tame effort was easily saved by the former Tottenham ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini.
And after withstanding the initial LA surge, the Men in Red got serious on the offensive end. Lindpere found an unmarked Maicon Santos, but his 21st minute header went just wide right of goal.
And they were inches away from taking the lead in the 32nd minute. After a bad Galaxy giveaway, striker Chris Rolfe found space just left on goal, but his shot was wide right by a painfully small margin.
Moments later, it was the Galaxy who almost got on the board first. Keane won a free kick for Los Galácticos, and Juninho's 34th minute free kick was heading into the top left corner of the net, but Johnson was able to make the diving save.
But the home side finally got some Magee magic to go in front in the 38th minute.
Keane's low pass into the Fire box was deflected around in the box until it bounced to Magee. He then launched a stunning side volley past Johnson into the right side of the net to give the champions a somewhat deserved 1-0 lead. Defender Todd Dunivant was eventually credited with the assist.
They nearly doubled the lead moments later. After some good Galaxy possession in front of the Fire goal, the ball bounced out to a charging Juninho, but his running effort drifted high and wide.
All things considered, the Fire must have been happy to hear the halftime whistle.
With no changes at halftime, things could have gotten much worse to start the second half.
Keane was begging for a penalty after some tangling with Fire defender Steven Kinney in the box in the 47th minute, but referee Kevin Stott was unmoved. It looked like Kinney may have tugged his jersey a little bit, but perhaps not enough for Keane to go down to the ground the way he did.
Shortly after, Sean Franklin and Colin Clark had opportunities, but were unable to convert thanks to great individual defensive efforts from Jeff Larentowicz and Jalil Anibaba, respectively.
Magee should've had a brace on 55 minutes. Keane delivered a beautiful ball to his feet, and his shot was miraculously kept out by a Johnson kick save.
The Fire desperately needed something to change, so they brought on Alex for Duka in the 57th minute.
The Brazilian made his presence known immediately, drawing a foul about 25 yards from goal. But Santos' booming free kick in the 60th minute was tipped over by Cudicini.
On the ensuing corner, Anibaba collided heads with Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza, but neither was seriously injured.
The Galaxy pressure continued to be relentless, and Magee had another opportunity to get his second goal in the 64th minute, but his shot was off target.
In search of some offense, Sherjill MacDonald came on for Santos in the 67th minute. The Galaxy also switched out midfielders as Michael Stephens came on for Clark.
But a minute later, Magee finally got his second. After some solid interchange in front of the Fire box, Keane found Magee on the back post and his powerful effort found the top left corner to double the Galaxy's advantage in the 68th minute.
On a more positive note, Yazid Atouba made his MLS debut in the 71st minute, replacing Lindpere.
But Magee's career day wasn't over. In the 74th minute, Keane's poke on goal was deflected by Johnson, but it bounced to Magee. He was then able to dribble to his left and then blast the ball to the right and into the net.
After creating so many chances, Keane got a goal of his own in the 80th minute. Off a corner, Stephens found Gonzalez in the box. Gonzalez then found Keane who was able to side volley the ball past Johnson to make it 4-0.
With the match truly in hand, Magee and Marcelo Sarvas came off in the 82nd minute, with Jack McBean and Rafael Garcia entering.
McBean nearly made an immediate impact a minute later after finding himself on goal, but his shot went just wide of net.
The Fire tried to get a consolation goal, but were unable to do so as their opening day ended on a very sour note.
Fire head coach Frank Klopas made five changes to the side that lost to the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS playoffs.
Defender Arne Friedrich and captain Logan Pause were ruled out of the game for hamstring and quad injuries, respectively. Striker Sherjill MacDonald was apparently judged to be healthy, but still started the match on the substitutes bench. He later came on a substitute for Maicon Santos in the 67th minute.
Midfielders Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka as well as Santos all started and made their first regular season appearances for the club. Larentowicz was also named team captain in Pause's absence.
The Fire's lone MLS SuperDraft pick Yazid Atouba made his MLS debut in the 71st minute, replacing Lindpere.
Steven Kinney made his long-awaited return to the club after suffering an Achilles injury during the last game of the 2012 season. Ironically enough, that game took place against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.
Next up for the Fire is their home opener against the New England Revolution next Saturday. That game will take place at 6:30 PM CST and will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
The defending champions Galaxy are next in action against Costa Rican side C.S. Herediano in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals action. That series will take place over two legs next Thursday and on March 13. Their next MLS matchup takes place against rivals Chivas USA on March 17.
Starting XI: GK Sean Johnson; RB Jalil Anibaba, CB Austin Berry, CB Steven Kinney, LB Gonzalo Segares; RM Patrick Nyarko, CM Jeff Larentowicz (C), CM Joel Lindpere (Sub: '71 for Atouba), LM Dilly Duka (Sub: '57 for Alex), FWD Chris Rolfe, FWD Maicon Santos (Sub: '67 for MacDonald)
Substitutes: GK Paolo Tornaghi; D/M Michael Videira, M Daniel Paladini, M Wells Thompson, F Yazid Atouba (Sub: '71 for Lindpere), M/F Alex (Sub: '57 for Duka), F Sherjill MacDonald (Sub: '67 for Santos)
Starting XI: GK Carlo Cudicini; D Todd Dunivant (A: '38, Y: '75), D Omar Gonzalez (A: '80), D Leonardo, D A.J. DeLaGarza; M Colin Clark (Sub: '67 for Stephens), M Juninho, M Marcelo Sarvas (Sub: '82 for Garcia), M Sean Franklin; F Mike Magee (G: '38, '68, '74, Sub: '82 for McBean), F Robbie Keane (A: '68, G' 80)
Substitutes: GK Brian Perk; M Hector Jimenez, M Rafael Garcia (Sub: '82 for Garcia), F Charlie Rugg, M Michael Stephens (Sub: '67 for Clark, A: '80), M Greg Cochrane, F Jack McBean (Sub: '82 for Magee)