Los Angeles Galaxy defeat Chicago Fire in 2015 home opener, 2-0

March 7, 2015

Carson, Calif. -- A lot has changed since that 2014 day when the Los Angeles Galaxy won their fifth MLS Championship and Landon Donovan retired.  In the interim, the team added Steven Gerrard and Edson Buddle, and traded away Marcelo Sarvas, among various personnel moves.

On Friday at the StubHub Center in front of 27,000 fans, the Galaxy and its collection of new faces opened the 2015 season against the Chicago Fire, commencing what the team hopes will be its journey towards yet another crown.

Despite the influx of new faces, a few constants remain on the roster, notably a strong defensive back line anchored by Omar Gonzalez, a witty midfield led by Juninho, and a quality attacking front two in Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes.

LA started the game with plenty of opportunities.  In the 10th minute, the Galaxy earned a free-kick from just outside the 18-yard-box, and Jose Villareal's shot was directed low and to the near post, but goalkeeper Sean Johnson deflected it out of harm's way.
Villareal had another chance in the 41st minute when a Stefan Ishizaki cross found him alone in the box from about 12 yards away.  Jose one-timed the shot, but put it over the crossbar and the Galaxy lost another scoring opportunity.
At the start of the second half, Chicago look poised to get the game’s first goal in the 57th minute when the ball was played into the box, but head referee Jair Marrufo chose not to give the Fire a penalty-kick with a possible Galaxy tackle from behind.
However, in the 65th minute, Ishizaki and Villareal kept being persistent.  Ishizaki beat his defender on the wing and then crossed the ball into the box.  It found its way through multiple players and landed at the feet of Villareal, who was making a run to the far post.  Villareal one-timed the shot and this time struck the back of the net for a 1-0 lead and the Galaxy’s first goal of the season.

“Obviously he played well, and obviously got the winning goal for a really big game," said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena of Villareal.  "He is a good player; he dedicates himself to being a good professional. He’s got the talent to be a real good player, so I’m really pleased with his game today.”
The Galaxy put the game away in the 81st minute when Gonzalez delivered a great ball to Baggio Husidic, who headed it down to the feet of Keane.  Keane sent a strong right-footed shot into goal and gave LA the 2-0 win.

“Anytime I can be involved in the attack, it takes me back to my old days and I always have fun doing it," said Gonzalez.  "I always try and be the first line of attack, get the ball quickly to the midfielder, if I can skip the midfielders and go straight to the forwards, or send it out wide to [Stefan Ishizaki] like I did tonight. I don’t always want to play safe, and that is something that I am going to try and do this year and continually, get better at it. I’m happy tonight it worked out, and above all else, I’m happy that we got the win. I was trying to put it right in front of [Baggio Husidic], and just drop it in there, but he happened to knock it down so it worked out.”

Prior to the match, the Galaxy raised the 2014 MLS Cup Champions banner in StubHub Center during a special pre-game ceremony -- a celebration that nearly did not happen considering that the MLS and its players avoided a labor strike only days earlier.

The LA Galaxy are now unbeaten in 20 consecutive games at StubHub Center and have only lost three of their last 44 home matches in both MLS Regular Season and the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The Galaxy will play next Sunday, March 15, at 4 p.m. PT when they travel to face the Portland Timbers at Providence Park, broadcast live on FOX Sports.

By Brian Kowalski
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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