Galaxy, Fire Draw In Valley Of The Sun

Josh Tudela and Marco Pappa exchange first-half goals as the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire tied 1-1 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
By Andrea Martinez

TEMPE, Ariz. - The LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire faced off Saturday in the inaugural Phoenix Soccer Classico and played to a 1-1 draw. A David Beckham-less Galaxy and a semi-fit Cuauhtémoc Blanco drew 8,614 to Sun Devil Stadium as both teams closed out their respective preseasons.

Josh Tudela scored for the Galaxy while Marco Pappa countered for the Fire.

The game got off to a quick start and within the first minute, the LA Galaxy were having trouble holding on to the ball after some sloppy passing in the midfield. In the fourth minute, the LA Galaxy took advantage of a Landon Donovan corner kick that went out of the box via some sloppy defending from the Chicago Fire. Tudela capitalized on Chicago’s defending and let a low shot go to the ‘keeper’s left, making it 1-0 early in the game.

During the first half most of the action went on in the midfield. There were some passes that weren’t being strung together well, but the Galaxy managed to attack a little more.  

In the 21st minute, Chicago had a good chance as Justin Mapp shot a ball that flew across the front of the goal. It wasn’t until the 30th minute that a clear opportunity finally occurred for the Fire. Patrick Nyarko shook off defenders and crossed to Pappa, who slotted the ball into the upper left corner of the goal to level the match 1-1.  

Chicago had another opportunity in the 39th minute when Justin Mapp delivered a corner kick. Several Fire players attempted to take a shot at a loose ball in the Galaxy area, but it was Nyarko who had the best chance, but missed getting it over the line.

Right after halftime Chicago once again had a good look at the goal. A long ball was sent to Galaxy ’keeper Donovan Ricketts, who lost control. Brian McBride was close to the action, but was a few seconds late.

It was again McBride in the 53rd minute who had another chance for the Fire as he had a diving header that eventually found the ‘keeper. At the same time the crowd was calling for Blanco to come on to the field. The Mexican legend finally entered in the 61st minute amidst cheers from his faithful supporters.

A corner by McBride delivered a good chance to Blanco  in the six yard box. Blanco’s shot went over the crossbar as Galaxy defenders closed in on him.  

The Galaxy finished with the last chance of the game. Chris Klein burst into the area awaiting a ball. He failed to control well as he came up against the Fire goalkeeper and in the end his efforts left the score line the same, at 1-1.  

Both sides felt content with the support that they received in Arizona.  

“Overall, I think that the people in Tempe, in Phoenix, did an outstanding job in making us feel at home here,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “It served well for a home show of both teams, Chicago probably feel the same, and we’d love to come back here.”  

The Fire's Pappa seemed to share the same sentiments.

“I believe we’ve seen the capacity crowds when Mexico and the U.S. play. The people of Phoenix are great, the field was great. So yes, I do believe that Phoenix is worthy of a [MLS] team.”  

Meanwhile the Beckham situation that has been going with the Galaxy hasn’t mentally derailed the team.  

“Our team’s mindset has always been in the right place. The whole David situation, I think the guys did a very good job in handling it,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein said. “At the end of the day David is a teammate of ours and we just want what’s best for him. But we had to prepare for our season and Bruce kept us focused on that.”

Andrea Martinez covers Mexican soccer for Goal.com