Fire Fall at Defending Champion LA Galaxy in 2015 Opener

WATCH: Match Highlights

CARSON, Calif. -- The Chicago Fire Soccer Club joined the defending Major League Soccer champion LA Galaxy in ringing in the 2015 regular season, but fell to the host Galaxy, 2-0, Friday night at the StubHub Center in Carson. 

Despite a trio of regulars missing due to injuries and another three absent from practice for much of the week while tending to league affairs, the Fire came out organized defensively and held the defending MLS Cup Champions scoreless through the first hour. However, goals over the last 30 minutes from Jose Villareal and Robbie Keane ultimately proved the difference in Friday’s affair.

Both Harry Shipp and Quincy Amarikwa created promising chances inside the first 10 minutes of the match, and shortly after halftime the two linked up when Shipp played Amarikwa through into the penalty area. Amarikwa latched onto the pass as he was shouldered to the ground by an oncoming Robbie Rogers, but the referee kept his whistle silent as the scoring chance went begging. 

Not long after, the Galaxy took the lead in the 65th minute thanks to a polished finish from Villareal. Prior to the goal, Fire defender Jeff Larentowicz tried to clear a Galaxy cross, but his attempt deflected off the chest of teammate Lovel Palmer and directly into the path of Villareal. The Galaxy winger tucked his shot inside the far post for the first goal of the 2015 MLS regular season. 

             • MLS Matchcenter 

Robbie Keane sealed the result with an 81st-minute tally from the top of the box. Omar Gonzalez lofted a pass into the area, allowing Baggio Husidic to rise and knock the ball down for Keane. The 2014 Volkswagen Most Valuable Player didn’t waste his chance, one timing a shot past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Several Fire players earned their club debut during the match, including: Eric Gehrig, Joevin Jones, Shaun Maloney, Kennedy Igboananike, Matt Polster, Michael Stephens and Guly do Prado. The match marked the third consecutive season-opener that saw Chicago take to the pitch at the StubHub Center (vs. LA Galaxy in 2013, vs. Chivas USA in 2014). 

The Men in Red return to action on Saturday, March 14 for their home opener against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Toyota Park, presented by Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Kickoff is 5 p.m. CT on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, ESPN Chicago ((1000)) and ESPN Deportes 97.5 FM. Five-thousand fans will receive magnetic schedules courtesy of Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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MLS Regular Season
LA Galaxy 2:0 Chicago Fire
March 6, 2015 – StubHub Center
Attendance: 27,000

Scoring Summary:
LA – Jose Villareal (unassisted) 65
LA – Robbie Keane (Baggio Husidic, Omar Gonzalez) 81

Misconduct Summary:
CHI – Shaun Maloney (caution) 22
LA – Kenney Walker (caution) 61
CHI – Guly do Prado (caution) 75

LA Galaxy: Brian Rowe, Dan Gargan (A.J. DeLaGarza 83), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, Robbie Rogers, Jose Villareal (Alan Gordon 70), Juninho, Kenney Walker (Baggio Husidic 63), Stefan Ishizaki, Gyasi Zardes, ©Robbie Keane.

Shots: 13; Shots On Goal: 5; Saves: 1; Fouls: 15; Corner Kicks: 4; Offsides: 2.

Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson, Lovel Palmer, ©Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Gehrig, Joevin Jones, Matt Watson (Michael Stephens 56), Chris Ritter (Matt Polster 63), Shaun Maloney, Harry Shipp, Kennedy Igboananike (Guly do Prado 72), Quincy Amarikwa.

Shots: 8; Shots On Goal: 1; Saves: 3; Fouls: 15; Corner Kicks: 2; Offsides: 2.

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CHICAGO FIRE HEAD COACH FRANK YALLOP

On tonight’s game:
“I thought in the first half we were pretty poor. It seemed like the occasion kind of got to us a little bit, but I told the guys at half time the good news is it’s nil-nil. They had a few good chances in the first half, but I thought right before they scored we started coming into the game. We started to move the ball quite well, but we were unfortunate with the rebound on the first goal and obviously it was a great finish for the second with Robbie Keane scoring.”

On takeaways from the match:
“I thought we didn’t give up, we kept going, we tried to play and push on a little bit in the second half. We’re a new team and we have some guys out [due to injury] that are going to help us when they do get healthy and come back. I thought spirit-wise, it was good. Our performance football-wise wasn’t good, especially in the first half. We had spells that were really good, but not enough in the game to warrant a win.”

On moving forward:
“You can’t ask for a harder game to start your season. For me, it was tough to really get a real sense of where we are because it’s the first game against the [defending] champions and we were sort of at half strength with some guys out. My big thing is making sure that we regroup and get ready for the home opener next weekend and come out with a victory in that one.”

CHICAGO FIRE MIDFIELDER SHAUN MALONEY

On the result:
“We played a really good side tonight; we played the champions, and I think that showed. [The Galaxy] dominated the game for large parts. I think there were parts of the game where we started to get a little more of the possession and a little bit more control of the game, but the Galaxy are champions for a reason. We have some work to do to get up to that standard.”

On MLS and Chicago Fire debut:
“After defeat, you’re very disappointed. Before the match, I said it was a great match to play. I think in all these types of matches, they’re brilliant to play if you win, but the manor in which we got beat at times tonight, it was just very disappointing.”

On team cohesion:
“We’ll improve going forward as a team. I think it showed tonight that we have a lot of new players. I think there’s still lots of work to be done on the training ground to get organized as a team, but I don’t think any of us can shy away from that. There were small parts tonight where we showed that we can compete with the champions, and with more hard work we can match them for far longer periods.”

CHICAGO FIRE DEFENDER JEFF LARENTOWICZ

On the result:
“The first game of the year is always tough to come here. This is three years in-a-row we’ve started the season in LA, and twice now we’ve played the Galaxy; whether it’s the first game, midseason or the last game, they’re a good team. They’re a strong attacking team and put us under pressure in the first half. I thought in the second half we were better, but they get fortunate on [the first goal] and take the air out of the game, and they’re not going to lose a lead at home.”

On the first goal:
“I was getting back in for the cross; I don’t know that Lovel is there. I was just focusing on the ball and trying to hook it the other way. Unfortunately, it hits Lovel and sits right there for [Jose] Villareal.”

Positives going forward:
"The end of the game was good. We had guys on the field who were comfortable and were moving the ball around. It’s always easier at 2-0, but the things that we did towards the end of the game were good. It’s a long season and you have to keep grinding. No team comes in at the beginning of a season in mid-season form; that just doesn’t happen. We just have to keep working on the things we want to do a push on.”