The Chicago Fire at last get their 2019 MLS regular season underway Saturday in a nationally televised meeting with the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park (7 p.m. CT, FS1).
Both sides will be eyeing a return to the postseason in 2019 as they each look to jumpstart their respective campaigns with a full three points. Ahead of kickoff, here are the facts and faces set to shape #LAvCHI:
A New-Look LA
The Galaxy enter the 2019 regular season under new leadership in the form of head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and general manager Dennis te Kloese. Fire fans will be especially familiar with Schelotto, Columbus Crew SC’s first-ever Designated Player, who led Crew SC to their first MLS Cup win en route to being named MLS MVP in 2008. He takes the reins in LA after winning a pair of Argentine Primera División championships with Boca Juniors. Te Kloese takes over having most recently served as the director of national teams for the Mexican Soccer Federation.
Opening Day Debuts
While Saturday’s lineups are yet to be revealed, a number of official Club debuts look likely for head coach Veljko Paunović and the Fire. Midfielder Przemysław Frankowski, defender Marcelo and goalkeeper David Ousted were regulars in the starting XI throughout preseason play and are likely to figure in Paunović’s plans from the outset on Saturday.
Several of te Kloese’s new additions look set to feature for the Galaxy come kickoff on Saturday evening. Defender Diego Polenta arrived from Club Nacional de Football in Uruguay’s first division in early February and figures to slot in alongside returnee Daniel Steres in central defense. Injuries in the midfield -- along with Friday's news of Giovani dos Santos' exit from LA -- could allow 21-year-old Manchester City loanee Uriel Antuna an opportunity to lineup on the Galaxy wing. In addition, 2019 11th overall MLS SuperDraft selection Emil Cuello could see time in the center of the park as part of Schelotto’s starting XI.
The 2019 Galaxy feature a pair of former Men In Red in goalkeeper Matt Lampson as well as Juninho -- now in his second stint in LA -- but the midfielder is listed as out for Saturday’s match with an undisclosed injury.
Saturday’s season opener promises to be a star-studded affair in LA. The Galaxy will formally unveil a statue dedicated to David Beckham prior to kickoff, before former Manchester United teammates Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic square off for a second time in MLS play. Last season, Ibrahimovic arrived in Bridgeview for his first MLS road match and headed in the winner for LA in a blustery 1-0 victory, leaving the Fire looking to return the favor ahead of Saturday’s replay in Cali.
The Fire are 15-21-7 all-time against the Galaxy, including a 6-11-4 record in matches played in LA.