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Historic match might be missing a pair of L.A. stars

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



The Fire figured its 200th all-time home game Sunday would be something special, especially with the opponent for the milestone match at Toyota Park being the Los Angeles Galaxy with its two high-profile stars, David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

But the attractiveness of the match has been diminished, to say the least.

Beckham drew his fifth yellow card of the season during the Galaxy’s 0-0 draw Wednesday at Philadelphia and is suspended for Sunday’s match. Donovan was a no-show at Philadelphia, choosing to remain in Los Angeles to get treatment on an injured knee. He is a game-time decision for Sunday.

With or without Beckham and Donovan, the Galaxy (2-1-3) hasn’t been anything special this season, going 0-1-2 in matches when Donovan hasn’t been available.

Beckham, the former England captain who enjoyed a spectacular career in Europe, hasn’t shown his skills at Toyota Park. He came into Major League Soccer four seasons ago as a big drawing-card player but has played in just one of the Galaxy’s four matches at Toyota Park. In that match, he came on as a reserve in the 58th minute of one of the Fire’s biggest wins — a 1-0 playoff-clinching victory Oct. 21, 2007.

The Galaxy couldn’t beat a struggling Fire team last season, either. In the first meeting in Los Angeles, the Fire played its best half of the season, scoring three times in the first 19 minutes. That was enough to overcome two Donovan penalty kicks in a 3-2 win Aug. 1.

In the rematch Sept. 4 at Toyota Park, the Fire settled for a 1-1 draw.

The Fire (1-2-1) isn’t coming into Sunday’s match with much momentum, either. The club returned Friday from a winless two-game road trip, losing 2-1 at Seattle last Saturday and 4-2 at Portland on Thursday.

The Timbers are an MLS expansion team that came out firing in their first home game before a raucous crowd of 18,627.

“They have a top-notch stadium, and their fans are fantastic,” Fire captain Logan Pause said. “They definitely put a lot of emotion and energy into that game. They did enough, and more, to get three points.”

Portland had a 3-0 lead in the first half before Marco Pappa led a Fire comeback that cut the deficit to 3-2 — but it was too little, too late.

“We played much better in the second half,” Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said. “It was a good atmosphere and a very nice field, but it was difficult to play on because of the rain. We need to learn from this.”

De los Cobos gave new Croatian midfielder Marco Maric his first playing time of the season at Portland, bringing him on as a substitute in the 46th minute. He left in the 63rd with a lower-leg injury that makes him doubtful for Sunday.

In another change, de los Cobos pulled Uruguayan forward Gaston Puerari at halftime in favor of newly acquired Dominic Oduro, who created some scoring chances and could make his first start Sunday.

Going into Sunday’s milestone contest, the Fire is 106-49-44 in its 14 seasons of home matches that have been played at Soldier Field, Cardinal Stadium in Naperville and Toyota Park. The Fire is 3-1-1 against the Galaxy in Bridgeview.



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