The Chicago Fire fall in their 2019 MLS opener to the LA Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. – Entering the fourth year of the Veljko Paunovic era, the team is hoping to recapture the magic of their second season under the coach.
That’s when a new look Chicago Fire team caught many by surprise with a fast start in 2017, using a host of new players to finish third in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. A playoff appearance for the first time since 2012 gave hope to supporters for the 2018 season, but it didn’t come happen, as the team slipped to 8-18-8, finishing tenth in the conference.
A new year dawned on Saturday night in Carson, California for Paunovic and the Fire on Saturday, with hope that they can come through after struggles of a year ago. The coach started his fourth campaign in Chicago against the LA Galaxy, who themselves have missed the playoffs the last two seasons. But they did see improvement in 2018 after adding star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the roster last season.
While there were moments to remember for the Fire in the opening game, especially from new players like C.J. Sapong and goalkeeper David Ousted, victory was not to be to start this season.
Ibrahimovic’s goal in the 80th minute proved to be the game-winner for the Galaxy, who started the season with a 2-1 win over the Fire.
For those looking for encouragement, the first place to look is Sapong, who got the Fire their first score of the 2019 season. Last season the forward had just four goals in 25 games for the Philadelphia Union, but he stole an bad pass deep in his own end and beat the keeper for his first score as a member of the Chicago Fire in the 49th minute.
While he did allow a pair of goals, Ousted came up with one of the moments on the match, preventing what looked like a sure goal by Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute. While following backwards into the net, the keeper managed to reach his arm back and swat the ball above the crossbar and keep the contest tied at one.
Ibrahimovic would beat him later in the game to prevent the Fire from ending their first contest of the year with points. But a few memorable moments from Ousted, Sapong, and others give some hope as the team heads home for three-straight games at SeetGeek Stadium here in March.