(Photo credits: David Banks/Getty Images North America)
The Fire entered the 2013 campaign at the Home Depot Center, in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, California, with high hopes. For a team with such great playoff aspirations after making their first postseason in three years in 2012, they could not have gotten off to a worse start.
Chicago’s sloppy defensive play and poor touches characterized the first half of mostly even play, but it eventually caught up to the Fire when Mike Magee scored his first of three goals in the thirty-eighth minute, with Todd Dunivant picking up the assist. Magee’s goal sparked the Los Angeles crowd of 20,124 into a frenzy, though for a stadium with a capacity of 27,000 and a good track record of attendance, the Opening Day crowd was disappointing. The same-stadium rivals to the Galaxy, Chivas USA – a wildly unpopular club and a major candidate for relocation – drew just 7,121 to their opener on Saturday.
Despite being down a goal to a strong club, the Fire went into the second half looking for redemption, and opened it up with a very nice sequence before a hard-kicked shot from distance missed the net. The score would be stable for the first twenty-three minutes of the half before the Galaxy began to pull away in the match. The high-profile striker Robbie Keane assisted Magee’s second goal to put Los Angeles ahead 2-0. Just six minutes later, Magee scored unassisted for the first hat trick of this young Major League Soccer season. Just another six minutes after that, Keane’s eightieth minute strike capped the scoring, assisted by Omar González and late substitution Michael Stephens.
The Fire’s starting lineup yielded more than its share of surprises. Maicon Santos got the nod at striker over the presumptive starter Sherjill MacDonald. The notable oddities at the back line saw both Jalil Anibaba and Steven Kinney in the lineup after Arne Friedrich’s hamstring and Logan Pause’s quadriceps kept them out of the game. Pause, the incumbent captain of the team, was moved from his regular midfield position to defense after the off-season saw the Fire acquire Joel Lindpere, Dilly Duka, and Jeff Larentowicz – all three of which started the game for Chicago – leaving no starting spot open at the position. Larentowicz took over the role of captain for the game.
The Fire’s lone pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Yazid Atouba, taken 30th overall in the second round, played well in the preseason and made his debut in the game in relief of Lindpere.
The Fire head home to Bridgeview next for the season opener as they play host to the rival New England Revolution on Saturday, March 9th. Kick-off is at 6:30 PM Central Time, and will be carried nationally by NBC Sports Network. The two teams have a long history going back to the 1998 inaugural season for the Fire, as the two teams have met eight times in the postseason, including a span of five consecutive seasons between 2005 and 2009.