The LA Galaxy's dwindling playoff hopes could receive a major boost if they can mark their return to league play with a win over the visiting Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
The Galaxy (5-10-7, 22 points) begin the weekend nine points beneath the playoff line in the Western Conference during a season where nothing has gone to plan.
First, LA lost 2022 leading scorer Javier Chicharito Hernandez to a season-ending torn ACL in early June, and center back Martin Caceres later that month for three to five months with a knee fracture.
Then defensive midfielder Gaston Brugman saw his season end with a torn meniscus picked up during a 1-0 loss to Liga MX side Club Leon in Leagues Cup play last month.
But the club has still tried to improve its squad over the summer window before a nearly four-week break from competitive action because of their abbreviated Leagues Cup stay. And that extended prep time may allow arrivals like striker Billy Sharp, winger Michael Barrios and defender Maya Yoshida to make a more immediate impact once they make their debuts, which could come on Saturday.
"It's given us some time to integrate them," said Galaxy manager Greg Vanney. "For them to understand our game model, our principles, things like that, what we're playing for, with and without the ball. It's given us some time, and they're going to help us, no question."
The Fire (8-8-8, 32 points) are locked in their own tight playoff race in the East, starting the weekend two points ahead of D.C. United for the ninth and final playoff spot.
Chicago has won five of its last seven (5-2-0) under interim manager Frank Klopas to climb off the bottom of the table.
But a 3-1 home loss to Orlando City last Sunday left Klopas frustrated, having seen his side capitulate quickly after taking an early second-half lead through unlikely scorer Mauricio Pineda.
"It was a huge chance at home to continue to gain some momentum," Klopas said. "We knew how important these home matches are now towards the end of the season, and we kind of feel we let one slip away."
Pineda is out for Chicago on Saturday, serving a one-match suspension for yellow-card accumulation.
—Field Level Media