Fire v Galaxy Preview

Donovan & Co. face the new-look Fire on FSC

Freddie Ljungberg will be available for selection
in Los Angeles on Sunday but Nery Castillo did not travel with the team
and should make his debut on August 8 against New York.  The Fire's
outlook for the remainder of the season has changed dramatically over
the last two weeks with the acquisition of two designated players.  The
team will reach the half-way point of the season with their fifteenth
match against the top team in MLS.

The Galaxy have been stellar for most of the the year despite recent
struggles in the US Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champion's League.  After
playing to a 2-2 draw against San Jose in MLS play last weekend, Los
Angeles was trounced at home by USL-2 side Puerto Rico Islanders while
playing most of their first choice players. 

Donovan Ricketts has been the top goalkeeper in MLS this season and
got the nod in the All Star Game against Manchester United.  Defensively
LA has been fantastic (until recently) with Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo,
and Greg Berhalter playing center back.  Gonzalez was also a participant
in the All Star Game. 

The outside backs also feature depth and
versatility.  Sean Franklin has started matches at both right back and
right mid.  Todd Dunivant is the usual starter at left back (Eddie Lewis
also plays left back and left mid).  AJ DeLaGarza can play either side
in the back.  All are capable MLS starters. 

Bruce Arena employs a 4-4-2 formation that allows Landon Donovan to
roam from the left mid spot while Juninho and Chris Birchall play the
center midfield roles.  Rookie Michael Stephens has played well at right
mid.  Chris Klein, Dema Kovalenko, and Alex Cazumba also fill in
capably when needed.  Donovan leads the league with 11 assists despite
missing time for World Cup duty.

Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle are the usual pairing up top.  Buddle
has been fantastic, leading MLS with 12 goals.  Jovan Kirovski and
Tristan Bowen provide depth up front. 

On the Fire's end, Carlos De Los Cobos will employ a 4-4-2 formation
once Castillo is fit and ready to play.  Since Castillo is not in Los
Angeles, the coach may opt to continue utilizing a 4-5-1 formation for
one more match particularly if Freddie Ljungberg is not in the first
eleven.  Ljungberg reportedly was nursing an ankle injury during his
last few weeks in Seattle. 

Patrick Nyarko should return to the line up providing a sorely missed
spark on the wing while Marco Pappa comes off his first All Star Game
after playing the first half against Manchester United on Wednesday. 
Logan Pause is no longer on the injured list and should return to the
holding mid position.  Baggio Husidic is listed as probable with a groin
injury but Peter Lowry is also avaialble after suffering a head injury
in SuperLiga.  Deris Umanzor also remains an option in midfield. 
Umanzor looked very comfortable at the position during SuperLiga play. 

Wilman Conde, CJ Brown, and Krzyzstof Krol all look set to return in
back while Tim Ward is listed as questionable for the match with a calf
strain.  Stephen Kinney should get the nod if Ward can't go but Dasan
Robinson is also ready to return.

Sean Johnson spent much of the week training with the first team in
practice after impressing in SuperLiga.  De Los Cobos has not named a
starter in goal but I expect that Johnson will get the call over Andrew
Dykstra on Sunday night. 

The Galaxy continued to struggle last Tuesday night and as I wrote
earlier in the week, the Fire could be catching them at a good time. 
The MLS season is full of peaks and valleys over the course of a summer
and Los Angeles may be in the midst of one of those valleys that all MLS
teams inevitably have to face. 

Prediction

Newfound excitement along with improved play in the last two
SuperLiga matches coupled with the LA's recent struggles provide an
opportunity for the Fire to go into the Home Depot Center and leave with
a result.  The Galaxy is 6-0-2 at home in league play and will travel
to Puerto Rico immediately after the match for the second leg of their
preliminary round match-up against the Islanders. 

Fire 1 Galaxy 1

Referee

The referee for the match will be Silviu Petrescu.

Injury Report

Los Angeles Galaxy

Out : Mike Magee F (sports hernia surgery), David Beckham M (achilles tendon surgery)

Clint Mathis is not on the injury list but he is listed as unavailable as he ponders retirement.

Chicago Fire

Out : John Thorrington M (L quad strain)

Questionable : Tim Ward D (L calf strain)

Probable : Baggio Husidic M (L groin soreness)

How does the Galaxy stay under the MLS salary cap?

This is a question that has been asked for several years.  Since LA
signed David Beckham in 2007, MLS' confusing salary cap math has been
the subject of conspiracy theories among fans.  Landon Donovan now
counts as a designated player after the latest collective bargaining
agreement and expansion of the DP rule clarified some hazy issues. In
review of the the Galaxy's salary list it
appears that it is entirely possible that Los Angeles is operating
within the rules of the salary cap without mysterious help from the
league. 

Although their total base salaries amount to $9,691,039.00 for the
2010 season only $2,811,039.00 of that amount is counted towards the
salary cap since two designated players are only valued at $670,000.0
against the cap. 

Taking into account that Omar Gonzalez is a Generation Adidas player
and MLS rules allow up to six players that do not count against the cap
as developmental players one can subtract Gonzalez's salary along with
the salaries of Jordan, Marshall (who has been loaned out), Stephens,
and DeLaGarza bringing the total "cap" amount to $2,565,939.00.  Even
before taking into account that Becks was loaned out and not available
to the Galaxy until July 15 it's evident that the Galaxy could well be
very close and even possibly under the MLS salary cap amount of
$2,550,000.00.  Of course, they're spending well above every other team
in the league but in terms of the cap they are playing within the rules.

Now, how they were going to add Ronaldinho as a third DP under the cap rules is another story entirely.