LA Galaxy vs Sporting Kansas City, Saturday 4/20/13 7:30 PM PDT, Home Depot Center. NBC Sports.
Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
Sporting Kansas City ride into Carson with an Eastern Conference-leading 14 points and on the back of five consecutive clean sheets. SKC has played two more games than the LA Galaxy and sit on their 14 points after 7 rounds of play.
SKC are certainly not The Wiz we all knew. They come in riding a five-game shutout streak, with a designated player who’s actually scoring goals, and two players who started in the United States National Team draw at Azteca in Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.
Smart drafting, trading, and signings have given SKC a roster most teams in MLS should be jealous of. Between S.J Sapong, Claudio Bieler, Zusi, Benny Feilhaber and the injured Teal Bunbury the Kansas City outfit has players all over the field that can put the ball in the net.
In their game against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, Kansas City started in a 4-5-1 and switched to a 4-3-3 depending on the play. After holding most of the possession through the first half, Sapong and Zusi (the wide men) pushed forward and switched sides frequently to confuse the aging NY backline.
Aurelien Collin, SKC’s answer to Omar Gonzalez, scored the lone goal of the fixture with his head while being held by Jamison Olave. If that doesn’t tell you about the type of strength he has, nothing will. Collin got his goal off a corner kick from Zusi, who leads MLS in corners taken with 36.
Benny Feilhaber has certainly found a home with SKC’s fast-moving, possession-oriented play. With so many attackers at their disposal, no team can afford to sit a man with Benny and open space behind him. NY attempted to rush him off the ball and Feilhaber was able to sit, watch the field, and pick his passes at will. The Galaxy’s Junino and Marcello Sarvas will have to be on their game, mainly Juninho.
Jimmy (Brigitte) Nielsen comes in without giving up a goal in 519 minutes and a career goals against average of 0.99. Remedy? Shoot early, shoot often. This season the Galaxy have gotten into the same situation as last; attempting to pass the ball into the back of the net. A phrase that had been going around The Squad last season was “Passing like Barca, shooting like Arsenal”. Arsenal fan or not, that’s not a compliment. If the Galaxy is to break past SKC they need to shoot the ball.
Bruce hates the phrase, and so do I, but Saturday night is a “Statement Game” for the Galaxy.
There’s no hiding it; the Galaxy are not on the best of runs at the moment. They haven’t won a game since the March 23rd match against Colorado, and that 1-0 result came courtesy of a penalty.
One of the chief reasons for our slow start has been goal scoring. Mike Magee still leads MLS in the Golden Boot race (let that sink in for a moment) and our next-highest goal scorer is Robbie Keane with one. One. Keane, Landon Donovan, Jack McBean, and Jose Villarreal simply need to score more goals. 8 goals have been scored between them (Magee-5, Keane-1, McBean-1, Villarreal-1) and the team has given up four goals. I wouldn’t be so upset about it if those five goals by Magee didn’t include three in one game.
It’s not just the attack. Defensive mistakes have to stop. Carlo Cudicini is finally making the big saves and doing some of his best ‘keeping since he arrived in LA, but defensive lapses (particularly at the ends of games) are dooming the team. Omar Gonzalez loses his runner late against Dallas and a disappointing one point turns into a dreadful 0 points. It has to be better if LA is to mount an effort for Supporters Shield.
The Bottom Line
They say there are no easy games in MLS, and this is certainly an example of that. Sporting is built right – to play like a team. Everyone knows where everyone else is going to be and everyone covers for everyone else. To get these points the Galaxy need a full 90-minute effort from each man.
Villarreal took a minor knock midweek in a reserve game but hopefully he’ll be ready to go. It appears Bruce is dead-set on starting Landon regardless of how rusty and out-of-form he looks, so hopefully he is one step closer to being MLS Cup Champion Landon and not Sabbatical Landon.
Prediction: LA Galaxy 0 – Sporting Kansas City 2
FIFA ‘13 Live Fixture Sim: LA 0 – 1 SKC (Convey 83’)