The sides had contrasting weekends.
Chicago were dealt their first loss of the season away to Orlando City. It was far from the worst loss ever, as they had a number of injuries going into the contest, and then they had a man sent off during the match. However, it was still a tough pill to swallow, and now eyes will be on the Fire to see how they respond.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, picked up their biggest win of the season so far, beating bitter rivals LAFC 2-1 in the latest installment of El Tráfico. The Galaxy jumped out to an early lead, scoring twice in the opening half-hour. The opposition responded well, pulling one back before seemingly scoring an equalizer in stoppage time, but a VAR review ruled out the goal due to offside. As a result, the Galaxy came away from proceedings with all three points.
Neither team is dealing with too many absences at the moment, which is good.
Chicago currently has two doubts for the contest, as Fabian Herbers and Xherdan Shaqiri could both miss out, but the latter is further along in his recovery. Meanwhile, Brian Gutiérrez is suspended following his red card last weekend.
Los Angeles will be without Adam Saldaña and Jorge Villafaña, who are suffering from an ankle injury and a knee injury respectively.
Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Omsberg, Czichos, M. Navarro, Pineda, Giménez, Ivanov, Shaqiri, Durán, Przybyłko
Los Angeles Galaxy: Bond, Araujo, Coulibaly, Williams, Edwards, Leerdam, Raveloson, Álvarez, Vázquez, Grandsir, Hernández
Ones to watch
Well, this weekend is a big game, and the Fire has a big time player in Xherdan Shaqiri. Now, it’s time for him to start making some big time plays.
He’s effectively missed the team’s last two games. The Swiss international was subbed off after just 19 minutes against FC Dallas, and that injury ruled him out the following week versus Orlando City. Chicago struggled without him, failing to score a single goal in those matches.
Shaqiri should be back this time around, and the timing could not be better. This is the most marquee game the Fire have played in quite some time, which means that there will be plenty of eyes on them. That’s not always been the case, and the club simply has to make the most of this opportunity.
If they are to put on a show, then they’ll need their main man to step up to the plate. The attacker has been good this season, and he’s showcased just how talented he truly is. However, he’s not been elite, which is what Chicago brought him in to be.
Shaqiri tends to be at his best when the lights are shining brightest. For the Fire’s sake, hopefully that’s still the case.
(He is currently listed as doubtful for the contest, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he’ll play, especially since it’s such a glamorous fixture)
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández
Remember what I was saying about big time players? Well, Los Angeles has a big time player of their own that’ll be standing on the opposite side of the field.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández has been elite for the Galaxy this season, scoring five goals in the team's opening six games. That’s tied for best in all of MLS, and there’s plenty of reasons to believe that he’ll be in Golden Boot contention come the end of the season.
Not only has he been scoring, but he’s been scoring in big games too. The striker scored a dramatic winner on opening day, finding the back of the net in stoppage time against the reigning MLS Cup champions NYCFC. A few weeks later he grabbed the opener versus the Seattle Sounders, and then he followed that up with a brace against the Portland Timbers. His most recent was the most important, as he got things going in the aforementioned El Tráfico win.
Chicharito will have a tough test ahead of him this weekend. Chicago has been phenomenal at the back, only conceding twice all season, which is the joint-best in the league. He’ll need to be at his very best if he wants to continue his rich run of form, but considering how good he has been this campaign, he probably will be.
Last time out
It’s been over three years since these two sides last faced off.
Kicking off the 2019 season at Dignity Health Sports Park, the visitors were the ones who took the lead minutes into the start of the second half. It came in fortunate fashion, as a woeful backpass from Diego Polenta went right to C.J. Sapong, who made the most of the gift by rounding the goalkeeper and passing the ball into the back of an empty net.
Los Angeles would eventually respond, equalizing midway through the half. Efraín Álvarez practically created the goal on his own, as he danced past a Fire player before hitting a superb cross into the area that picked out Daniel Steres. He simply could not miss, and he didn’t, heading home from just a few yards out.
The Galaxy continued to push forward, and they were ultimately able to find a winner. A wicked volley from Chris Pontius was denied by the bar, but the rebound would fall right to Zlatan Ibrahimović, who was able to head the ball over the goal line despite Chicago’s best efforts.
That proved to be enough for the hosts, who ended up securing an opening day victory.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CDT, and it will air live on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago and on Spectrum SportsNet and lagalaxy.com for fans in Los Angeles. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.