Beckham-less Galaxy take on Fire
While team captain Landon Donovan seems to have recovered from the swine flu, the Los Angeles Galaxy's other high-profile star has run into a different problem.
David Beckham will miss Wednesday's game against the host Chicago Fire due to suspension, leaving Los Angeles shorthanded as it tries to rebound from its first MLS loss in nearly two months.
The Galaxy (7-4-10) had been 5-0-1 in their previous six league games before a 2-0 loss Saturday to Seattle Sounders FC. Los Angeles, which dropped to third place in the Western Conference, allowed both goals while a man down after Beckham received a red card in the 17th minute.
The controversial Englishman will have to sit out Wednesday's contest after his hard tackle on Seattle's Peter Vagenas, although he did not agree with the call.
"I think it's a hard tackle but not with means for a red card," Beckham told the league's official Web site. "I've never gone in one tackle wanting to hurt someone. The referee saw it differently."
Donovan, however, figures to be back at full strength after entering Saturday's game at halftime. The team's leading scorer with nine goals and five assists, Donovan had been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus last week, although he was no longer contagious and the symptoms were subsiding.
"(Galaxy coach Bruce Arena) asked me how I was feeling and I said I thought I could play 45 minutes," Donovan said. "In hindsight, I wish I had started the game because I think I had a lot of energy."
Los Angeles will need his help, as Eddie Lewis also will be unavailable after receiving a late red card against the Sounders. The Galaxy have been playing without injured forwards Edson Buddle and Alecko Eskandarian, and their status remains in doubt.
While the Galaxy must deal with a quick turnaround for the midweek contest, Chicago (9-4-8) played even more recently, beating Kansas City 2-0 on Sunday.
The Fire, comfortably in second place in the East and four points behind first-place Columbus with a game in hand, bounced back from a 3-2 loss at Houston the previous week.
Things went more smoothly against the Wizards, even with Cuauhtemoc Blanco getting the night off to rest. Blanco, the Mexican veteran who ranks second in MLS with eight assists, will likely return Wednesday.
That should be helpful for a Chicago team that continues to play without forward Brian McBride (shoulder surgery). Chris Rolfe and Mike Banner stepped up with goals Sunday, with Banner scoring the first of his MLS career.
While the Fire would seem to have the advantage playing at home -- especially with the Galaxy having lost their last five visits to Chicago, including once in U.S. Open Cup action -- both teams have been better on the road this year. The Galaxy are 4-1-6 away from home, while Chicago is 3-2-4 at Toyota Park.
Los Angeles has lost three straight overall to the Fire, although this is the first meeting of 2009.