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LA Galaxy defeat Chicago Fire in 2019 season opener

Mar 2, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Chicago Fire defender Marcelo (2) controls the ball against La Galaxy attacker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) during the first half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 in their 2019 MLS regular season home opener at Dignity Health Sports Park. 

There was much anticipation for the Galaxy’s first official match of the year after a hectic offseason full of front office changes and roster moves, including the recent contract buy-out of Giovani Dos Santos to allow the Galaxy to be roster compliant. If the Galaxy were able to put all of those things aside and find a victory, there could be promising things ahead for this LA team.

Before the match, the Galaxy organization honored former player David Beckham with a statue outside the stadium, as well as a place in the club’s Ring of Honor inside the stadium. Just before kickoff, former head coach Sigi Schmid was remembered after his death Christmas morning. Also, 7 year-old singing sensation Malea Emma sang the national anthem ahead of the Galaxy’s match, adding to excitement before kickoff. 

The game started as one would imagine, with both sides working off those first game jitters and no real stints of possession for either team. There was a snag in the plan for the Galaxy in the 20th minute when Designated Player Romain Alessandrini had to be substituted due to injury and replaced by Emmanuel Boateng. An unexpected shift in the plan so early in the match could have had dire consequences, but the Galaxy were able to find their way through the struggle and come out ahead.

Chicago struck first, early in the second half with a goal from recently acquired forward CJ Sapong in the 49th minute of play. The atmosphere of the stadium immediately deflated, as fans of the Galaxy were concerned that their troubles were not in fact over. 

Efrain Alvarez, a product of the Galaxy academy system who is only 16 years old, entered the match in the 60th minute, replacing 2019 MLS SuperDraft pick Emil Cuello. Alvarez made an immediate impact on the match in the 68th minute, setting up defender Daniel Steres to find the Galaxy’s equalizer. 

Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the game winner in the 80th minute, heading in a deflection off the crossbar. The play started with a throw in by defender Rolf Feltscher to Alvarez, who fought off a defender to get the ball to midfielder Chris Pontius. Pontius’ shot hit the crossbar and bounced in Ibrahimovic’s direction, where he was able to bury.

The Galaxy accomplished two things they had not been able to do regularly in the last several years: come from behind to win and hold a lead. This match lays a good foundation for the Galaxy to build on for the 2019 season, but there are still 33 matches to be played this year. Their next match is Saturday at F.C. Dallas. 

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