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Published on May 5th, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt

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Salvage: Fire try to save a rocky road trip in Los Angeles

Things have not gone to plan for the Chicago Fire on their three-game road trip so far, but they have one last chance to take something from it.

The Men in Red will travel to the City of Angels (and cocaine) Saturday to take on an LA Galaxy side that has struggled in the early going of the season. It’s the last leg of a road trip that was always expected to be tough, taking on three sides that figured to be in the hunt for silverware in 2017.

But still, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the lack of points coming from the road trip so far. On the first stop, Chicago was simply flat footed and outplayed from whistle to whistle by a Toronto team that seemed to decide the game against the Fire would be its wake-up call for the 2017 season.

Chicago followed up that flat performance with a strong effort full of offensive ambition against the New York Red Bulls. But the Dax McCarty homecoming would not go Dax’s way, as the Fire seemed to channel the spirit of Juan Luis Anangono and Quincy Amarikwa – doing well to create chances, but promptly missing all but one.

So Saturday is the last chance to salvage something from this long trip. On the podcast, I called this an early-season must win for the Fire. Taking one point out of nine is never good, but three would at least help soften the blow of losing the momentum they had after a very good home stand.

If Chicago was to lose, it would not be the end of the world. Last year alone, FC Dallas went through a three-game losing streak, as did the New York Red Bulls (who started 1-6-0 only to make the playoffs) and eventual MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders. So losing three games in a row isn’t death. But it’s about as unbearable as a long-form feature on a recently divorced Brad Pitt in GQ Magazine. Seriously, just go fall in the ocean Los Angeles.

On to the three things to watch!

Juninho!   

The forgotten man of the Holy Triumvirate will not be a forgotten man on Saturday. The Brazilian midfielder gets almost no attention and it is because he has been nothing but steady all season. He has had no breakout game and he has not had a stinker either. As he quietly does his job, McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger have lit the pitch on fire with their play.

But I’d expect a strong showing from the longtime Galaxy man Saturday. Juninho had his best years in L.A. and he is going to want to remind the home crowd about the glory years in which he lifted three MLS Cups with the team. If he plays anything like Dax did in New York, it should be a treat to watch.

A Change Is Gonna Come

This game might be worth watching for the starting XI alone. Earlier in the week, Fire beat reporter extraordinaire Orrin Schwarz was unexpectedly booted from what was supposed to be an open practice session. What could that mean? It could mean coach Veljko Paunovic is FINALLY playing around with different options at right back.

It would make sense the team would want to keep it under wraps, both because they don’t want to tip their hand and because the options they trotted out there might not be ready to take over the spot right away anyway, so why publically show a lack of confidence in Michael Harrington when you can just keep pretending he is good.

I don’t think the goalkeeper position is in danger yet, which is odd considering Paunovic seemed to really love Matt Lampson last year. But I would not be surprised to see a surprise starter at right back Saturday.

It’s still the Galaxy

This is not a good Los Angeles Galaxy team. The team has eight goals in eight games and is an atrocious 1-3-1 at home while coming off two scoreless performances in front of their fans. Seriously, Saturday will be their third straight home game but the home stand to this point has consisted of a 0-3 drubbing by Seattle and 0-0 draw with the lowly Philadelphia Union.

Do you really think LA is going to get shut out THREE times in a row at home? It’s hard to think that will happen here. That’s not to say the Fire won’t win, but they’ll just have to score more than a goal to do so.

Unfortunately for our Men in Red, this might be the most motivated the Galaxy has been all season. Pulling only one point out of nine at home isn’t acceptable in Los Angeles. They’re not trying to rebuild with Curt Onalfo, they are trying to reload. If these lack of results continue, he won’t be long for the job. He knows that. The team knows that. Expect their best shot Saturday.

Prediction: Chicago 3, Los Angeles 2

I said Fire win this game 3-1 on the podcast, but I’m going to give the Galaxy an extra goal here. Like I said in the preview, this is a HUNGRY team. The Fire will have to weather a storm, but Chicago is not exactly full of happy campers either. McCarty, Schweinsteiger and Juninho are not exactly familiar with three-game losing streaks and I don’t think they allow this team to fall into that lull.

They will demand more of themselves and their teammates and they will find a way to get the win.

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