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Fireside Chat: FIRE v Galaxy, MLS #12

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LAG Confidential's Josie Becker joins us for the ceremonial asking and answering of the queries both earnest and frivilous

Hey LA - see this Mike Magee? You like this Mike Magee? NOT YOURS.
Hey LA - see this Mike Magee? You like this Mike Magee? NOT YOURS.

We ask, they answer

HT: Before Sunday's demolition of Philadelphia, was there any concern about Donovan's form among the Galaxy faithful? Or was he playing well, but just not getting any breaks?

LAGC: Given the way you phrased the question, I have to admit there were questions amongst the Galaxy faithful. His failure to score was duly noted, and there was a pervasive thought that Donovan was largely absent from those first handful of games.

I didn't subscribe to that theory, as there was other turmoil going on around Donovan. Arena began the season insisting Donovan was to play midfield exclusively, but circumstances quickly led to Donovan joining Keane up top. Then Keane had the hot hand, so Donovan played underneath him, tracking back to set Keane up.

If you see him as a pure scorer then sure things weren't right in Tinseltown. However, he was doing so much to keep the attack going that it was fun on Sunday seeing him make goal scoring runs and letting Keane set him up.

HT: Juninho has been the primary first-team scouting coup for the Galaxy in the last few years, but he's looked a bit off this year to me. Am I straight tripping?

LAGC: Yes. Juninho has arguably been the most consistent player of the first ten matches of the season, playing a holding midfielder role. In this beloved sport of ours attacking players either score goals, give amazing service, or they're chopped liver. Juninho is playing much more defensively, and if you want to know how the Galaxy have been able to outpass opponents by a hundred or more it's the recoveries by Juninho that keep LA getting extra possessions.

HT: What's the perception of the Fire in LA? Are we just the team that now pays Magee? Are we aborable scamps? Can you get us a meeting with our owner?

LAGC: For a long while Chicago were the team that swindled LA out of Magee. Now that such things have calmed down, I'm not sure Chicago is thought of all that much. It's just not a franchise LA has much history with. That's not just down to being in different conferences, as LA has history with the Dynamo, DC United, even the New York Thierry Henrys.

There's no there there between LA and Chicago, unfortunately.

HT: Magee trade - here's the mic, go ahead and freestyle.

LAGC: The Magee trade is only remember negatively because LA only got the ghost of Robbie Rogers and at this point that's not worth very much at all. My position from the beginning was that Arena insisted Magee was a midfielder while he showed continuously he was best used as a Wondolowski type goal poacher. If the only time Magee was going to get to start at forward was as an injury replacement, mazel to Chicago for giving him a home where he can spread his wings.

I still think there's a future where Rogers becomes a major contributor, but he's fallen completely off since stepping away from the game. He did so with great reason, but it's clear the rust that gathered on his legs has kept him from stay fit and contributing positively.

HT: How has the addition of Galaxy II changed the outlook for LA's young talent? Who on that roster should we expect to see more of in the next year-plus?

LAGC: Galaxy II has taken away one of MLS' biggest issues. The reserve league is too irregular. There were times in the past where injured defenders (thinking of Omar Gonzalez here) had to come in at the sixty minute mark to get their rehab minutes because the next reserve league match was too far away to fit into the recovery schedule.

With the youth, the issue was bringing them up too quickly. They needed real match experience, which the reserve league approximates but doesn't quite reach, and players like Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal didn't need expectations heaped upon them at such a young age. What's been needed and now exists was that stopgap for players not quite ready for the big time but deserving better than ten roll outs a year. Now it exists.

HT: How long can Robbie Keane keep this up? Doesn't anyone age in LA?

LAGC: The doctors in Beverly Hills are very good.

Keane has gotten into a great rhythm in MLS, and I think he has an easy three or four more years in those legs. That he's still getting national team call-ups should set the table so far as his relative youth is concerned. He's only a year older than Donovan, Brad Davis; only two years older than Wondolowski. He's fine.

Predicted starting XI: Penedo; DeLaGarza, Opare, Leonardo, Gargan; Ishizaki, Juninho, Sarvas, Zardes; Donovan, Keane

Prediction: LA Galaxy 10 - Chicago Fire 2

They ask, we answer

LAGC: Last year's three goal total was a career best for Quincy Amarikwa, now he's Chicago's leading goal scorer. So what's going right for him?

HT: If you ask Quincy, the main difference is that he's actually getting regular playing time. He only got 299 minutes last year, and in that time cranked off 12 shots and scored those three goals. This year, he's started nine times and has looked full of threat in all of them.

That said, we're getting into uncharted territory for Amarikwa, minutes-wise. Can he bring his bustling, all-effort style week-in, week-out for an entire season? The week upcoming - which sees Chicago hosting LA, then travelling to Colorado, then back home against Seattle, all in six days - should tell us a lot about that question.

LAGC: So the LA Galaxy gave Chicago Mike Magee last year, which caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth. How's he been doing? Does he still do that one thing? Can you tell him we miss him?

HT: Mike still does allllll the things. And yeah, we could tell him that, but he's sleeping so cutely right now, and we don't want to wake him.

Magee's 2014 has been up and down, and right now it's down. His 'family issues' in preseason got him a new deal, but it also meant he wasn't in the greatest form when the season began. He's missed a couple of penalty kicks, and because of that we drew two games we could've won. And now his calf is bothering him, and he hasn't practiced all week. He'll likely watch this one in street clothes, but he should be able to show up for those dinner reservations.

LAGC: Does the name LA Galaxy still strike fear in the hearts of MLS fans around the country? Like Angelina wearing horns and walking around a green screen room?

HT: Not fear, not any more. Sorry. Everyone respects the Galaxy - they're a good team, great history, all that - and you don't expect to win, exactly. But fear speaks to a deeper place than respect, and the idea that this LA team is going to come out and straight-up humiliate your guys seems far-fetched.

Fortunately, the Galaxy seem to accept this truth with some grace - they're more apt to show up without makeup, wearing sweats, than in full stage regalia, ready for the green screen.

LAGC: I have a hard time getting a handle on Harry Shipp. He's that Landon Donovan type who is either a forward or a midfielder depending on his mood, but outside of the hat trick he's goal free. What's his deal?

HT: Harry Shipp is a very South American style of player who just happened to grow up on the north side of Chicago. I'd describe him as an enganche, a 'hook;' his immaculate first touch and clever use of space allows him to control tempo and create chances. He's not big or fast, but he's terribly smart, and his watchful stillness multiplies the usefulness of the runs happening all around him.

LAGC: Here's someone else I've never understood, Sean Johnson. He's at almost a 2 goal against a match average, saves only about half the shots he faces. Yet, he's been a national team camp staple for years. Is he secretly a good goalkeeper, like Bruce Wayne and Batman?

HT: Sean's a very good keeper who's played behind a bad defense for most of the last two years. Very few of the numerous goals the Fire have surrendered could be stopped; that said, there's a sneaking suspicion that we overrate Johnson slightly, mostly because he's been USA's No. 4. Is there something more he could be doing? I frankly don't know enough about keeper play to critique him.

LAGC: Who haven't I asked about that I should know about?

HT: Grant Ward is a Tottenham loanee who's just coming back from a broken foot. With the news that Patrick Nyarko had some bone spurs removed from one ankle, and Dilly Duka looking in a funk, suddenly there's playing time to be had on the wing for the Fire. He's 19, he's athletic, and he's got some swagger.

Starting XI Prediction: Johnson; Cochrane, Soumare, Hurtado, Palmer; Watson, Joya, Larentowicz (c), Duka; Shipp; Amarikwa.

(This is a pretty wild guess. I'm betting for the Fire to go away from a two-striker set for the first time this season. Conservatively, insert Anangono for Watson, move Shipp back to the left flank, and start with two strikers.)

Prediction: 2-2 draw. Fire create chances, Galaxy create chances, everyone goes home frustrated.