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Sunday, April 17, 2011
Fire drop 3rd straight to depleted Galaxy

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Los Angeles Galaxy was without its star power Sunday, but the struggling Chicago Fire could not withstand the rest of L.A.'s depleted roster as Chicago dropped its third straight, 2-1, in front of 18,203 at Toyota Park.

Former Fire forward Chad Barrett and Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez provided the Galaxy's scoring as L.A. earned a victory without Landon Donovan (knee inflammation), David Beckham (suspended), Juninho (suspended) and Jovan Kirovski (suspended).

Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos adjusted a couple of things defensively with the addition of 33-year-old goalkeeper Jon Conway for second-year goalkeeper Sean Johnson, and center defensive back Josip Mikulic returned to the fray in place of Dasan Robinson.

But the defensive lapses continued, particularly on Barrett's goal in the 42nd minute. He was left all alone in the middle of the Fire's defense.

"Those little breakdowns that we've been having defensively have been hurting us a lot," Fire midfielder and defender Gonzalo Segares said. "That definitely brought the momentum down."

The Fire (1-3-1) found some late life as second-half substitution Dominic Oduro beat Gonzalez one-on-one at a difficult angle from the right side and slotted the ball past Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to cut L.A.'s lead to 2-1.

Chicago created a couple more chances, including two sequences when Conway left his goal and went into the offensive third. Shortly into stoppage time, Conway pushed up on a Marco Pappa corner kick, and Ricketts had a huge opportunity to punt the ball toward the empty net. Instead, Ricketts was too busy directing things with his teammates, and Conway eventually trudged back into the net.

Conway made one save in his Fire debut, and it was not even with his gloves. In the 26th minute, the Galaxy's Todd Dunivant took a shot at close range and Conway saved it with his chest.

The move to bring in Conway over Johnson does not appear to be a temporary one.

"Conway is still playing," De los Cobos said. "I don't know how long, how many games more. It depends. For now, Jonny will play in the next game."

The match would have taken a much different tone for the Fire if they put away some high-percentage scoring chances in the first half. Gaston Puerari had a chance in the 25th minute as he chipped the ball over Ricketts, but it went wide of the goal. Then in the 29th, Segares got behind the L.A. defense and pushed his shot wide right, as well.

"I wish I could have options like that more often so I could have done better," Segares said. "I definitely should have put that in the back of the net. I had my first touch with my head, got it into the middle and I knew they were chasing me. Once Ricketts came I tried to poke it to the side. It passed him, but it passed [wide]."

In the 70th minute, Fire defender Cory Gibbs injured his leg and the team was reduced to 10 men on the pitch. Team officials did not confirm the extent of Gibbs' injury, other than saying it was his left leg.

Ricketts had three saves -- all in the second half -- for the Galaxy (3-1-3).

Analysis: The Fire cannot get all of their elements clicking on both sides of the pitch. Defensively, the number of lapses were at least minimized compared to the Portland loss, though that is not saying much.

Chicago had prime chances to get on the board first with Puerari's and Segares' first-half chances, and they were not optimistic scoring chances -- they were chances that almost always should be put away. Scoring on one or both of those opportunities would have changed the entire strategy of the game for both sides.

De los Cobos spent the post-game continuously defending the team's work ethic and taking full responsibility of the team during this three-game losing streak. But sooner or later the work-hard attitude needs to produce some results.

The Galaxy came into Toyota Park with some major components out of the lineup, and L.A. was not even playing all that well entering Sunday's game.

A topic that also came up after the match is the absence of a "midfield instructor" on this Fire team, as captain Logan Pause's and Michael Videira's traits are more geared toward the defensive side than offensive side.

"That's something that I'm giving the group a chance to [develop]," De los Cobos said. "Logan and Mike are guys that are better defensively. That's part of our search, of looking for somebody to come up with those offensive options."