David Beckhamwasn't in the house, but Landon Donovan arrived in time to watch from a luxury box and Eddie Lewis, the newest member of the Galaxy, observed from an adjoining suite.
The former didn't miss much and the latter pair probably saw more than they wanted to.
The Bruce ArenaEra, Galaxy Edition, debuted Thursday at Home Depot Center tepidly, at best, with a 1-0 loss to Chicago. Denuded of its best attackers, the Galaxy conjured up precious few scoring chances, and a revamped back line did reach the hour mark without having conceded a goal.
Yet soon enough the Galaxy defense split wide open to permit southern California native son John Thorrington to finish off a one-two with Brian McBride and drill a low shot inside the far post. Chicago should have taken a lead long before Thorrington's goal; it bombarded the Galaxy goal in the opening minute, and only a fingertip deflection from keeper Steve Cronin and the goalpost kept a rasping Chris Rolfe shot from hitting the net later in the half.
Despite a league-leading total of 40 goals scored, the Galaxy had been shut out three times this season coming into the match, and it seldom tested Fire keeper Jon Busch while enduring a fourth blanking. Alan Gordon glanced a header wide during a rare Galaxy attack early in the match, and his forward partner,Edson Buddle, seldom displayed the menace and confidence that have brought him a dozen goals this season.
Rookie Ely Allen and Buddle shot straight at Busch with the Galaxy's best looks at goal. The match cried out for the pace and guile of Donovan, and yes, even the brazen goalmouth bravado of Carlos Ruiz in years past. The trade of Ruiz to Toronto FC cleared draft picks and salary-cap space used to fit Lewis under the league's budgetary constraints.
Arena pushed Chris Klein from his right spot into midfield to replace Beckham, moved rookie central defender Sean Franklin to right back, and gave defender Troy Roberts just his sixth start of the season in place of Franklin. Alvaro Pires and Pete Vagenas couldn't secure the middle; Josh Tudela replaced Pires five minutes into the second half in an effort to seize some stability in midfield, but during the times one team held sway usually it was Chicago in command, and the helter-skelter periods forced Galaxy players to backpedal.
Arena proclaimed when he took the job no magic wand could transform the Galaxy (6-9-6, 24 points) overnight. There are nine games remaining and so tight is the Western Conference the short-term dilemma can be rectified, if not redeemed, with a few good results. But can it be done? The last nine games have failed to produce a win.
In his first start for the Fire, McBride contributed his usual rugged, selfless play as well as an assist. From the players he's inherited, Arena needs the same caliber of performance and commitment.