The L.A. Galaxy pose for a team picture on Friday, March 6, 2015 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. L.A. beat the visiting Chicago Fire, 2-0. (Courtesy of L.A. Galaxy)
CARSON, Calif.—The beginning of the 2015 MLS season ushered in a new era in many ways.
For the MLS, it marks the beginning of two new franchises, along with a group of notable faces making their arrival from Europe.
For the Los Angeles Galaxy, it marked the beginning of yet another MLS championship defense, along with a number of young players looking to make their mark on coach Bruce Arena’s roster.
After a dull first half, Galaxy homegrown player Jose Villareal and captain Robbie Keane gave the champs a dominating 2-0 victory against the overmatched Chicago Fire on Friday, March 6, 2015 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
“We thought that we put [Chicago] in a position where they would tire out a little bit because they had to do a lot of defending in the first half,” Arena said after the game. “Our guys kept their concentration and had the kind of discipline they needed to have. When [we] got the first goal, I thought they felt pretty comfortable that they would be able to get a second one, and get three points.”
Dan Gargan had the first opportunity of the game in the 9th minute after blasting a rebound given by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson into the side netting.
The Galaxy dominated possession outright the entire first half but failed to generate any real danger on the Chicago net.
In the 41st minute, however, Villareal missed an opportunity to vindicate Arena for his somewhat surprise inclusion in today’s lineup when the lefty sent a right-footed shot from the center of the box deep into the stands. No more than a minute later the sliding Gyasi Zardes just missed a wide open net from point blank on a deflected pass from Stefan Ishizaki.
The second half began much like the first half—with the Galaxy dominating possession but lacking creativity in the final third of the field. The Fire were the ones with the first major scoring opportunity of the second half when forward Quincy Amarikwa broke away toward net only to be stopped by a physical body check from Robbie Rogers inside the 18-yard box that was deemed legal by referee Jair Marrufo.
After trying to force their way into the net the entire game, Villareal finally gave Los Angeles the lead in the 65th minute thanks in part to a gift from Chicago captain Jeff Larentowicz. The defenseman was clumsy in trying to clear the ball away from danger and instead hit fellow defender Lovel Palmer with the ball, which bounced right into the path of Villareal.
Villareal took full advantage of the fortuitous chance and buried a left-footed effort past the helpless Johnson. He was replaced by forward Alan Gordon shortly after the goal.
“It feels good to help out the team in any way,” Villareal said. “I got that one in, and Robbie [Keane] got his so I’m really happy. Honestly, I was just hoping Palmer would let that slide—they kind of had a miscommunication with the other center back so luckily it was perfect for me.”
Keane, the 2014 MLS MVP, had been uncharacteristically quiet through most of the game. But in the 81st minute, the Irishman took full advantage of his most clear scoring opportunity after receiving an ingenuous headed pass from substitute Baggio Husidic. Keane buried the ball on a volley after Husidic’s pass off the back of his head left two Chicago defenders flat-footed and unable to get to the ball.
“I think it’s early on in the season, but just to get a win, we didn’t do that last year,” said Husidic. “So I think we still have a lot of things to work on, but we progress throughout the season.”
The Galaxy continued their trend of strong defensive performances at home from last season by shutting out the Fire, which didn’t go unnoticed by Arena.
“We’ve got good, experienced [defenders] that can pal multiple positions in the backline,” said Arena. “They’ve played together for a while so their pretty consistent.” Arena also lauded Omar Gonzalez and called Leonardo “a little bit of an unsung hero.”
Arena was also asked after the game whether Jaime Penedo’s omission from the lineup was due to a reported contract dispute, but the coach quickly said it was due to Brian Rowe being more prepared at this point than Penedo.
Game Notes: Galaxy defender A.J. De La Garza was left off the starting lineup due to injury (left foot), but came on in the 83rd minute, while goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was a healthy scratch…Landon Donovan was on the field for the unveiling of the 2014 MLS championship banner, saying, “This is the first time I’ve genuinely missed [being at the StubHub Center].”…Hours before the game the Galaxy announced the signing of veteran forward Edson Buddle for his second stint with the team, as well as Finnish international midfielder, Mika Vayrynen…The Galaxy debuted the new video board at the StubHub Center—a 5,100 square foot screen that cost $15 million and is the largest video board in the league.