The Galaxy knew they'd be shorthanded when they embarked on an three-game trip east a week and a half ago, but they never could have expected this.
L.A. wraps its trek Sunday afternoon in Chicago missing not only Landon Donovan, who has spent the past two weeks recovering from a knee injury, but without David Beckham, too. And Juninho. And Jovan Kirovski. And, still, Gregg Berhalter.
That's four starters and a veteran off the bench, all injured or suspended as the Galaxy (2-1-3) looks for something more than two or three points from the swing from D.C. to Toronto to the Windy City.
Beckham is serving a one-game suspension after picking up five yellow cards, most in the league, in the first six games -- one for arguing, two for petulant fouls (and one of those should have drawn red).
Juninho was sent off with two yellow cards Wednesday in Toronto, and Kirovski's suspension for that postgame red card last weekend at D.C. United was bumped to two games. Berhalter, an assistant coach and the Galaxy's backline leader, is still recovering from a sprained knee sustained during preseason.
“Every time we step on the field, we’ve established an environment in L.A. where we play to win, we expect to win,” Mike Magee, who has stepped into Donovan's slot on the left flank, told MLS's web site this week. “It doesn’t matter if we’re missing David, Landon, Juninho. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to play to win.”
Beckham and Juninho have been the central tandem in midfield the past three games, but figure on coach Bruce Arena to stick Chris Birchall, who has started in the middle this year and last, with Uruguayan first-year Paolo Cardozo. Sean Franklin likely will remain on the right side of midfield, with A.J. DeLaGarza, L.A.'s most impressive defender the past two games, at right back.
WORTH NOTING: The all-time series is15-15-4. L.A. failed to beat the Fire, losing at home and tying in Bridgeview, en route to the Supporters' Shield last year. … This is the second straight former club forward Chad Barrett will face. The former Fire forward gave easily his best performance in a Galaxy uniform in Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Toronto FC, his previous side.
INJURY LIST: Donovan and Berhalter are joined at home by forward Adam Cristman (knee surgery) and rookie midfielder Hector Jimenez (wrist surgery).
ALSO MISSING: Beckham, Juninho and Kirovski.
Carlos de los Cobos, 52, a former Mexican league defender (for Gallos Blancos, America, Necaxa and Monterrey) who represented El Tri at the 1986 World Cup, has coached in Mexico (was an assistant to Manuel Lapuente at the 1998 World Cup and in El Salvador (with a stint as national team coach in 2006-09). He failed to get the Fire to the playoffs last season, his first in MLS, in a campaign marked by some questionable player moves.
Three key players
Uruguayan-born, Argentine-raised forward Diego Chaves, 25, scored in his first three games with the Fire.
Guatamalan midfielder Marco Pappa, 23, quickly emerged as one of MLS's most skilled and dangerous attacking midfielders upon joining the Fire in 2008.
Veteran Logan Pause, 29, with the Fire since 2003, is Chicago's captain and one of the league's premier holding midfielders.
Questions about the Fire's attack have been calmed somewhat by Chaves' partnership with fellow Uruguayan Gabriel Puerari up top, with Pappa the primary support behind them. They're hardly expected to contend for hardware this year but ought to be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Chicago (1-2-1) is coming off a two-loss swing through the Pacific Northwest, admirably rallying from a three-goal deficit before falling, 4-2, in Portland's home MLS debut Thursday.
Midfielder Daniel Paladini starred at St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge and Cal State Northridge, played for the Galaxy's reserve side in 2006-07 and was with Chivas USA in 2008. … Teen forward Orr Barouch grew up in Woodland Hills, played at El Camino Real High School and for Chivas' youth academy. … Rookie forward Davis Paul, from Upland, played at Damien High School and for Arsenal FC in Alta Loma. … Colombian defender Yamith Cuesta was with Chivas in 2009-10 and opened camp with the Goats this season. … Backup goalkeeper Jon Conway was on Chivas's roster in 2009. … Rookie defender Jalil Anibaba was born in Fontana, but he grew up in Davis.
Midfielder Mike Banner and defender Steven Kinney are out with Achilles injuries, and midfielder Marko Maric is questionable with a sprained left ankle.
At Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.), 1 p.m. PT
TV: TeleFutura, live; Fox Sports West, 3 p.m.
Radio: K-Talk (KTLK/1150) and ESPN Deportes (KWKU/1220, Spanish)
Referee: Niko Bratsis