There’s always something a bit ahistorical about facing the Galaxy. It seems like almost every time we face them they’ve signed some new bigshot that completely changes the game, rendering us but helpless chum for their inevitable glorious feast of soccer vore. This time it’s Zlatan. In years past it’s been Steven Gerrard, or Robbie Keane, or David Beckham, or whatever Diet Galactico signing that the Galaxy manage to pass off in lieu of having an actual identity.
Whatever. This team is weak and everyone knows it. They might have more in the tank than the Fire do at the moment, but that’s not overwhelmingly obvious. If the Fire can keep their shit together in the back— looking at you, Richard Sanchez— and if Niko starts feeling himself, we’ve got a good chance of getting something out of this. Don’t let the Zlatan hype machine distract you— we’ve got a real shot at winning this thing.
CF97 all-time MLS record vs LA Galaxy: 15-20-7, 49 GF / 57 GA, 52 pts of 126
CF97 home MLS record vs LA Galaxy: 9-9-3, 27 GF / 26 GA, 30 pts of 63
As has been evident all season, but especially last week against Sporting Kansas City, this Galaxy team is vulnerable. Zlatan may be Zlatan, but he’s still mortal and just one person in a team of eleven. Other teams have figured out how to pile on pressure and force LA’s midfield and back line to make bad decisions. The Fire don’t even need to be particularly clever or enterprising here— they just need to watch the tape.
With Kevin Ellis added to our growing injury report, Pauno can’t just repeat what worked last week. And that’s for the best, for two reasons. One, the Galaxy play very narrow (something resembling a 3-3-3-1), so having a four-man backline with fullbacks that like to get forward should give the Fire some solid chances for counterplay. And two, their midfield is stronger than it looks, particularly with Perry Kitchen in good form. The Fire will need to keep their shit locked down tight in the center of the park. That means keeping Tchani on the bench to start and putting the Basti-As-Libero experiment on hold.
Keys To The Match
Know Our Limitations: Look, the Galaxy has Zlatan. We’re probably going to ship 3-4 goals. We have to accept that now and find a way to get a result anyway. Sanchez and the backline can’t afford to slouch, but we also can’t hang a big GA number entirely on them. It’s Zlatan. We get it.
Turn The Screw: The rest of the team, however, is vulnerable. Ashley Cole is a shadow of his former self, the other defenders get lost in the woods easily, and David Bingham frequently looks like a fan they pulled out of the stands to play in goal. This Galaxy team can bend and break. The Fire need to pile on pressure and force them to make bad life choices. It won’t take much, but they’ve gotta do it.
Debbie Downer: The atmosphere will likely be very charged, with Zlatan on the marquee and standing room only crowds at Toyota Park. It won’t be enough for the Fire to keep their heads down and focus on the game— they need to spoil the party. The Galaxy will be looking to make themselves at home, and they’ll be bolstered by a huge crowd there to watch their star player. Shut that shit down. Make it awkward. Blunt whatever energy the Galaxy will be feeding off of and suffocate them. This is Chicago in Second Winter. Make them wish they stayed home.
How To Watch
When: Saturday, April 14th, 2:30pm, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL
TV: Univision Deportes
Radio: WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish)
Will the Fire be able to get a result tomorrow? Or are the Zlatanified Galaxy too much for the Men In Red? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!