Sporting Falls 2-0 to LA Galaxy
Sporting Kansas City (3-5-5, 14 points) suffered a 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy (9-5-1, 28 points) on Wednesday night at Children's Mercy Park, succumbing to second-half strikes from Favio Alvarez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
LA entered the night winless in eight straight meetings with Sporting and 0-5-6 in their previous 11 trips to Kansas City, but Alvarez's header in the 55th minute and Ibrahimovic's close-range finish in the 86th minute ended both draughts and prevented the hosts from climbing out of 11th place in the Western Conference standings.
With a three-game homestand in the books, Sporting will now embark on a four-match road swing throughout June that begins Saturday with a visit to rivals Houston Dynamo (7-3-2, 23 points) at BBVA Compass Stadium. The contest will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Navigating a breathless stretch of three matches in seven days, Sporting Manager Peter Vermes deployed a starting lineup that included two changes from Sunday's 3-2 defeat of Seattle Sounders FC. Center back Andreu Fontas stepped in for the rested Matt Besler, making his first appearance since April 27 after overcoming a calf injury, while Graham Zusi recovered from an oblique ailment to replace Nico Hasler and take the captain's armband in Besler's absence. On the attacking end, striker Krisztian Nemeth served the second of his two-game suspension, which opened the door for Yohan Croizet to once again occupy the center forward role.
Sporting failed to find the back of the net against a tidy Galaxy defense, but Wednesday's outcome could have been far different had LA not survived a huge scare in the 15th minute. Croizet received a Benny Feilhaber through ball and played a neat cutback to the open Felipe Gutierrez, whose shot near the top of the box was blocked. Kelyn Rowe's follow-up effort then dragged inches wide of the gaping frame, much to the chagrin of the 19,979 fans in attendance.
Making his 150th appearance for Sporting in all competitions, Tim Melia was forced into his first save of the night on 24 minutes. The goalkeeper dropped low after Dave Romney connected powerfully with Sebastian Lletget's header and smothered the ball amidst a crowded goalmouth to keep the game scoreless.
Gutierrez and Rowe nearly combined for the breakthrough on the cusp of intermission, but LA goalkeeper David Bingham raced off his line and swiped the ball away for a corner kick that was defended successfully. Sporting were then prompted to make a halftime substitution as Besler replaced Botond Barath, who exited with tightness in his leg.
The Galaxy had lost four of their previous five matches but gained a foothold in the second stanza. Perry Kitchen played a crucial role in landing the first punch, swinging a pinpoint cross to the far post for Ibrahimovic to cushion back across the face of goal. Alvarez was left open to nod past Melia for his first career MLS goal in his third Galaxy appearance.
Gutierrez was left ruing his luck once more in the 62nd minute when his header off a Johnny Russell corner kick caromed off the top of the crossbar and behind. Sporting had been left to chance an equalizer and were exposed at the back seven mintues later, but Melia produced a superb kick save to thwart Ibrahimovic on the breakaway.
Zusi and second-half substitute Daniel Salloi both tried their luck from distance in the late stages, but Bingham punched away the former and the latter fizzed narrowly high.
Ibrahimovic put the game out of reach four minutes from full time, chesting down Uriel Antuna's diagonal ball and slotting inside the near post for his 10th goal of the campaign and the 32nd of his two-year MLS career.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On tonight's performance...
I don't think it was a 2-0 game. I think we missed too many really good chances in the game. To me, the fact that we couldn't finish those chances is what put us at 2-0. We should have been winning 2-0 at some point. That's the game sometimes. You don't score and the other team does. It's tough like that. I don't question or condemn the guys. They worked hard and did what they had to do. The fact that we had to play Sunday, Wednesday and then Saturday with the group of guys we have coming back from injury, it's just very difficult. There's no reason why (Graham) Zusi and (Andreu) Fontas should have played tonight. Botond (Barath) got a little fatigued in his leg and I had to take him off and change everything. Then we were chasing the game and I had to put more of an attacking environment in for the guys, lineup wise. Unfortunately, I had to push those guys. Thank God they didn't get injured.
On lineup issues due to fatigue and injury...
I was going to take off Fontas at 45. Botond would have played 90. Zusi was going to come off at halftime, but unfortunately I couldn't do that because of what happened with Botond and I didn't know how long Fontas could go.
On Zlatan Ibrahimovic's performance...
Credit to him, he was involved with both goals. Obviously. the second one he scored. In both goals we could have easily done much better.
On what needs to happen against Houston on Saturday...
The biggest thing is recovery. It's not much else. Just being able to put a group of guys on the field that can actually give us 90 minutes, and give us a real 90. We are going to a place where the climate becomes a factor, on top of playing again Saturday.
On LA's defense...
We missed chances. We had wide open looks and had too many of them. We just never hit the target. It was almost too easy and we couldn't finish.
On Johnny Russell's performance after Sunday's hat trick...
I think the issue is when you don't have enough players to change in and out. There's a lot of guys that I wouldn't have played tonight based on Sunday's match. The fact that we don't have guys that can go 90 minutes affects that. Imagine if I could have given Johnny 60 minutes off and got him in the last 30, and what his energy would have been like then. I didn't have the ability to do that based on where we are right now with bringing guys back. Unfortunately, we're going to suffer physically a little bit in games until we get enough guys back. Come Sunday, we're going to lose four guys to international duty, and they are four guys who are healthy. It doesn't help the mission here.
Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler
On his message for the team...
We just have to keep going. We don't have much time to dwell on mistakes or to feel good about the positive things we do. We just have to move on. There's been a number of guys that have stepped up while other guys have been out. It's a credit to those guys who have been in the lineup game in and game out. They've held things together. Now the onus is on some of the guys that are coming back to give something to the group and to provide a spark and a lift that we need.
On how the Galaxy was able to keep the clean sheet...
I think in the first half, we played well. We were on the front foot and we created a decent amount of opportunities. I don't think we were sharp enough in that final pass or the final decision. In the second half, they did a much better job of dropping their back six and staying compact and making it tough for us. We were never really able to break them down as well as we wanted to in the second half. Going the other way in the second half, they played much more direct. They started hitting balls up to Zlatan and he's a tough match-up. With balls going into him in the air, he's either taking them down or flicking them on and balls are bouncing. They did a good job in the second half.
On the team's mentality moving forward...
We have everything in front of us to play for. It would be nice to be higher up in the standings. There's no doubt about that. In no ways are our guys holding their heads down and throwing things away. We still believe and we know that there's still a long season ahead of us. We have a lot to play for. The only thing we can do is move forward and get better. That's what we're going to do.
On the team's current position in the standings...
At this point, I don't think there's any need to look at other teams. We have to worry about ourselves. We have to get back into a position where we're in a conversation of looking at the table. Right now, we're not. That's the reality of it and we have to accept it.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez
Thoughts on the tornado that struck the area on Tuesday night...
First off, I would like to have a thought for the people that were affected yesterday with the tornado and all the problems that it caused. They have to know and feel that Sporting, we are an organization that is always here to help, soccer is important but of course life and houses and families matter for us. I just want to say that we are here to help.
Thoughts on the game...
We were talking about what happened with Jonathan Dos Santos and they were locked, they knew that they had to do a good game defensively. In my opinion, we controlled the game, we created chances, we had the much better attitude - right now it's not enough. I think it's more about us than any other team that can come here or we can go to play at their place. We just keep working and get better. It's a tough moment, a tough situation but I trust everybody here and I think that we know what to do.
On if the team has a break with a quick turnaround on Saturday...
No, but I think that we like that. At the end, we have trainings to play, so everybody has to know that we are here to play, no matter if it's every three days, four days or every two weeks. Players want to play and there are no excuses because also the other teams are playing in the middle of the week so obviously we have to maybe get better and focus in our recovery, we have to do everything we can to be ready for the games, and the next opportunity is Saturday in Houston so we are going for it.
On the level of frustration tonight...
Yeah but it's the same as it was in many other games this season. It's been a tough season, we started really good and then everything changed. We have that frustration that you're talking about but at the end we have to look at everything from the outside, try to analyze everything in a cold way, and that will make us be better. We cannot stay in our frustration, we have to stay away from it and try to do everything to change this situation.
LA Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Thoughts on the match...
We know that Kansas City is a pretty good team. They fight and they play very direct. We needed to be smart.
On the team's first win in KC since 2007...
For us, we beat a really good team. I think they know how to play. The coach has been here the last 10 years. We could control them after 20 minutes and more in the second half. We used the space.
On Sporting being on short rest...
That sometimes happens. We lost four games in a row - three of them were in six days. We played Columbus, New York and Los Angeles. You can feel it, for sure.
On the play of Zlatan Ibrahimovic...
He's very important in our team. He gives a lot of confidence to the players playing next to him. In this case, it was our first game with (Favio) Alvarez and him on the field. They could get along and we were able to score. I am very happy.
On Favio Alvarez scoring his first goal...
It was really good for him because when you score and you play in those positions, you get a lot of confidence.
On the team's outlook moving forward...
We will keep working and trying to get better every day and to get another three points on Sunday in LA.
LA Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik
On being back in the lineup...
It's good. It shows the coaches have confidence in me and it's nice to keep playing well to show them that I can play.
On how he handles criticism...
There's always going to be people criticizing you and criticizing the team, as well. We had a bad stretch where we lost a lot of games. Of course, people have opinions. That's good - it shows that people care about the team. We just use that as motivation for the next games. Now we've turned things around so that's good.
On the team's shutout...
It's always good to have clean sheets. We actually have had a lot of them this year so far, so hopefully we can keep it that way. They give a lot of confidence to the rest of the team to know that the defense will get shutouts so as long as we score goals, we're going to win games.
On the team's climb up the standings...
We always want to be at the top. That's where the LA Galaxy belongs and we're going to work to be up there. We just need to take it game-by-game and win the next game and the next game to add up points.
LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget
On the team's win...
They're a good team. I don't think I've ever won here. This is my first time. It's a tough place to play. Coming off two away wins, it's huge for us.
On the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic...
To get him back in the rhythm and having him out there, obviously it's going to help the team. I'm glad he got his goal. It was a killer goal. It was an insurance one and it killed the game off.
On Favio Alvarez scoring his first goal...
It's the best feeling to get that monkey off your back. He's been a great player so far. He's been great for us. To get that goal today, it's huge for him. I'm so happy for him.
On the play of David Bingham...
He's playing at a high level right now. We're taking full advantage of it. David is a great goalkeeper and we know that.
On the team's road result...
We're a hard-working side. We have the mentality. We're very resilient. We showed it tonight.
On keeping a clean sheet...
We absorbed a lot of pressure. Maybe it wasn't the prettiest at times. You come away with a clean sheet. You get a 2-0 win at KC. We couldn't be happier from that standpoint.
On criticism from fans...
I think we have some guys, including myself, that have really sort of experienced it. You get criticized as a team, especially with the four losses in a row. A club of this stature is obviously not used to that and the fans are not used to that. It's something that I think we managed well. We got together. We didn't crumble. More than anything, we should be proud of ourselves from that standpoint. We move on now and I think we've turned the table.
On the team's upcoming schedule...
I think just keep doing what we did today - just sticking together, showing character and resilience. If we have those things, we have the quality to make things happen. If we keep doing those things, I think we can get pretty far.
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