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Kljestan scores as LA Galaxy settle for preseason draw against Chicago Fire

Team get final tune-up ahead of season opener.

MLS: 2020 MLS Portraits
Sacha Kljestan scored in the second half for LA.
USA TODAY Sports

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy played their final preseason tune-up at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday against the Chicago Fire, exiting the match with a 1-1 draw.

Sacha Kljestan scored the home side’s goal on a goalmouth scramble, as both teams aimed to fine-tune their games ahead of their respective season openers in seven days’ time.

The Galaxy started with a strong lineup, likely nine or so of the starters for next Saturday for the season opener at the Houston Dynamo, with recovering Jonathan dos Santos the biggest absence on the day.

The kickoff was delayed 35 minutes due to earlier weather delays at the stadium, which included a hailstorm and two separate lightning delays.

Chicago’s roster is in far more flux heading into the season, but they also kicked off with what is likely to be something close to the lineup for their opener, which will be next Sunday against the Seattle Sounders.

The first chance came right on the stroke of 20 minutes, as a quick counterattack initiated by Chicharito led to Cristian Pavon laying off a set-up to the Mexican, but Chicago goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm got the block on the shot.

Moments later, Pavon nearly scored off a corner kick, but his attempt ran just wide of goal.

In the 28th minute, a Fire corner kick led to David Bingham to come out and punch the ball, but the ball floated up in the air, and Chicago forward Robert Beric latched onto the rebound, looking like a sure bet to score. But Rolf Feltscher made a terrific last-second block to prevent the opening goal.

The breakthrough came in the 54th minute, as Kljestan poked the ball home on a scramble in the 6-yard box, with Aleksandar Katai, Kljestan and Chicharito each having a shot in the buildup before the goal went into the upper 90.

Emil Cuello entered the game for Katai in the 65th minute and Bingham had another fingertip save moments later to keep Chicago off the board. Joe Corona entered for Perry Kitchen at around the 70th minute. Julian Araujo replaced Emiliano Insua in the final 15 minutes.

The Galaxy had a penalty shout in the final 10 minutes on what looked like a handled clearance by a Fire defender, but LA’s cries went on deaf ears with the referee. Then Fire substitute Micheal Azira scored on an absolute scramble in the box in the 84th minute to level the score. Chicharito nearly scored after that, and Francisco Calvo looked like he handled the ball on the sliding challenge, but again no call from the referee.

All in all, how was the play on the day? It looked like two teams trying to figure things out before the season started, to be honest. They swapped chances throughout the game, although the Galaxy probably had a bit of an edge in terms of possession.

One of the biggest surprises to me was how deep Chicharito played for much of the match. He had multiple flick-ons in midfield to help initiate counterattacks, but he also didn’t get many looks in front of goal because he was trying to link up deeper. It will be interesting to see how he settles after getting used to his new teammates and the style of play in MLS.

Insua was also involved on the day, and not only does he bear a passing resemblance to Rolf Feltscher in terms of hairstyle and body frame, he plays a similarly physical style. The Argentine aired out a long-distance diagonal into the 18-yard box in the opening minutes, which could be an asset in attack this season.

And from here on out it’s training sessions ahead of the season debut, as Houston await in Texas in seven days’ time.

Did you watch the game? What did you think about the performance? What questions do you have coming into the season based on this one?