Fire look to top LA without Ljungberg's spark

All-Star Pappa also slated to miss crucial match against Galaxy

Ljungberg will face his former club on Saturday

Photo Credit: 
Otto Greule Jr./Getty

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire attack will be missing two key players when the LA Galaxy come to town on Saturday.

Forward Freddie Ljungberg (yellow-card suspension) and midfielder Marco Pappa (international duty) will both miss the match, leaving Chicago without two of their most dangerous offensive threats against LA’s stingy back four.

Ljungberg’s absence will be particularly glaring. Since he was acquired in trade with Seattle on July 31, the Swedish Designated Player – who has been playing as a withdrawn striker – has been a maestro for Chicago, distributing fantastically and testing opposing defenses with his mazy runs.

“Obviously since he came we’ve really been playing through him a lot,” Fire winger Patrick Nyarko. “He’s been our main playmaker. … We’re going to have to tweak things a little bit [without him].”

[inline_node:312519]One tweak could be changing the formation. Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos hinted Wednesday that he could field a 4-1-4-1 formation on Saturday – a shape regularly used prior to Ljungberg’s arrival.

“I don’t yet know what our formation [will be],” de los Cobos told MLSsoccer.com. “But maybe we can use Calen [Carr] and [Nyarko] on the sides and play with three [center midfielders] in a 4-1-4-1. It’s a good shape for us … and maybe we can use it again.”

Of course, de los Cobos could stick with the same 4-4-1-1 formation he’s used in recent weeks – provided Nery Castillo is fit enough to start.

If the Mexican DP is deemed ready to go on Saturday, he could slide right into Ljungberg’s supporting striker role, playing behind a bigger target like Brian McBride or Collins John on the Fire’s front line.

But regardless of any changes, the Fire remain excited to try and sweep the season series from the league-leading Galaxy.

“We’re going to lose a lot [without Ljungberg and Pappa],” Nyarko said. “But there are a lot of guys on this team that can step in and get the job done. I’m looking forward to seeing the formation we play in on Saturday, playing with different guys and hopefully coming out with the result.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.