April 18, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Los Angeles Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. - Goals have come at a premium for the LA Galaxy during their recent three game slide in all competitions, scoring just once in the last 270 minutes of play. At the same time, this Saturday's opponent, Sporting Kansas City, have held opponents scoreless in their last five games.
Kansas City extended their streak on Wednesday when they shut down Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and the New York Red Bulls, holding them scoreless as Sporting nicked out a 1-0 victory at Red Bull Arena to extend their record to 4-1-2 on the season and their shutout streak to 519 minutes. Sporting's results as of late lead to just one question ahead of Saturday's match.
Just how do the Galaxy break down such a talented Kansas City defense?
"Try to shoot and pass well. That would help. If you put it in the net, they put in the scoreboard," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said glibly to reporters on Thursday. "They're a good team defensively and they have a good way of playing, they understand each other very well so their backline and goalkeeper play well."
Leading the charge for Kansas City's defenders will be center backs Matt Besler- the reigning MLS Defender of the Year- and flamboyant Frenchman AurÃ¯Â¿Â½lien Collin as well as reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Nielsen.
Besler in particular is on an incredible run of form as of late that includes starting alongside Omar Gonzalez in the U.S. National Team's 0-0 draw in a World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico on March 26. On Wednesday, Besler was in typical form as he kept the Red Bulls off the board, even making a last ditch clearance to prevent a Fabian Espindola breakaway in the 25th minute.
Although the pair have only played together on a few occasions with the National Team, Besler has left quite the impression on Gonzalez.
"He's pretty quiet off the field, but when it comes game time, he's ready to play and he's confident. He just gets the job done," Gonzalez said of his international teammate. "That is something that is great about him; he doesn't show off and just gets the job done. He's in the right places at the right time and he's good 1v1 and that makes for a good defender."
For all of Kansas City's defensive weapons, the Galaxy attackers are confident that they can break Sporting's defense.
"They don't concede too many goals, but hopefully, we can change that on Saturday," said Galaxy captain Robbie Keane with a smirk.
"They've been around together for a while now and they have a good goalkeeper and a good back four, but we like to think that we're a pretty good and dynamic attacking team," said Landon Donovan. "So for us, it's a good challenge and we're looking forward to it."
The Galaxy's preparations were aided by a full week to rest and prepare for Kansas City after spending the last week playing a pair of road games, first in the CONCACAF Champions League against Monterrey and then in the league against FC Dallas.
Now finally able to prepare for an opponent for a full week- while Sporting flies across country after their midweek game in New Jersey- LA are ecstatic.
"This feels foreign; it feels like we haven't had this in a while. I think we've only played two road games this year [in league play], but it feels like we've played 10," said Mike Magee. "Going to Monterrey and we've had two lengthy trips, but it's great to get a full week and at the end of it, we have no excuses."