Since taking over the Chicago Fire's coaching duties, interim head coach Frank Klopas has preached about strengthening the defense on set pieces.
The Fire had not allowed a set-piece goal during Klopas' first seven games at the helm. But David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy put an end to that trend, as the Galaxy scored twice on set pieces en route to a 2-1 victory over Chicago on Saturday at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Beckham scored directly off of a corner kick for the game-winner, and he provided a corner kick assist on a Landon Donovan header. Cristian Nazarit scored the Fire's lone goal in between Beckham's corners, with all three goals coming in an eight-minute span.
"We got too comfortable against the wrong team," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. "We lost concentration on a couple of goals, and that's unacceptable. A lapse of concentration against a team like this, they'll take advantage of it."
The Fire (2-5-12) suffered their first loss under Klopas (1-1-6). It also marks Chicago's first defeat since a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on May 21. The Western Conference-leading Galaxy (10-2-9) extended its unbeaten run to 12 games.
On Saturday, the Galaxy offense came to life in the second half, highlighted by Beckham's 66th-minute corner kick goal. Beckham took a low, driving corner from the left side and found the net. The ball eluded several players, including Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and Nyarko who was trying to cover the back right post.
"It went through Jalil [Anibaba], Sean, and I couldn't see the ball until it was in the net," Nyarko said. "It was bad defending on our part."
In the 58th, Beckham sent the corner kick in from the right side and found Donovan on the back left post for a 1-0 lead. Donovan rose above Fire defender Gonzalo Segares and headed the ball into the right side of the net.
The Fire quickly recovered from Donovan's goal. In the 62nd minute, Nyarko sent a right-footed cross from the left side of the pitch and connected with Nazarit. Nazarit drove his header underneath Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders and into the net to tie the score at 1-1.
The match ended on an ugly note when Nyarko was taken out by the Galaxy's Chris Birchall in second-half stoppage time. Birchall was shown a yellow card, and the Fire took exception to a harsh challenge that could have been ruled a red. Fire forward Diego Chaves immediately rushed in, and multiple players left their respective benches. Fire defender Josip Mikulic, who was a reserve, was shown a red card.
Analysis: The end result certainly did not paint the picture of how the match went in the early going.
The Fire's game plan was effective throughout the first half and the early stages of the second half. Donovan's 58th-minute goal was the first attempt the Galaxy had on net, so the Fire had a positive impact during this difficult road match. Once Chicago allowed some Galaxy set pieces on a regular basis, that played into the host team's hands.
Chicago had some good chances to put some momentum in its corner. Fire defender Anibaba had a scoring chance in the 45th minute. Anibaba appeared to be squared up to put his header on frame, but he pushed it wide right of the net. Early in the first half, Nyarko worked his way into the box from the left side, but the Galaxy's Gregg Berhalter slid in to deflect Nyarko's 14th-minute chance away from the goal.
Fire midfielder Marco Pappa could have had a stronger performance. He missed a glaring chance to level the match in the 72nd minute. Nyarko made a quick move to get around the Galaxy's Bryan Jordan on the left side. He provided a perfect setup for Pappa, but he sent his shot over the crossbar.
The Fire have had plenty of draws -- as well as a win -- that were poorer performances than Saturday's loss. But there is no question that Klopas will reiterate his set piece emphasis moving past this game.