For the first time this season, Sporting KC is headed to the West Coast as a member of the Western Conference as they take on the LA Galaxy. The two teams will meet for the 54th time in regular season play, the most games that KC has played against any team in league play.
The Galaxy come into the game having ended their two game losing streak last week against the Seattle Sounders. They ended a scoreless run of over 200 minutes in the 1-0 win over the Sounders, doing so without captain Robbie Keane in the lineup for the game. Keane is still questionable for the game tomorrow and his absence would be a bonus for a KC back line that is in a bit of flux right now. They'll also have two of their starters returning from San Antonio where Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes both started and played 90 minutes for the US in the 2-0 win over Mexico. With them playing 90 minutes and flying back to LA, the two may be a little fatigued for this weekend's game.
Meanwhile, the question on KC's national team call up, Matt Besler, is his health. Kansas City's captain sat out the friendly against Mexico with an illness. With KC's other issues in defense, I'd expect Besler to be in the lineup tomorrow night. The rest of KC's defense is limited at the moment as Erik Palmer-Brown was called up by the US U20 team and will not be available, Seth Sinovic is questionable with a groin injury that kept him out of last week's game, and then there's the long term injury to Ike Opara. With all of that, KC will only have five defenders available for tomorrow's game with Besler being joined by Marcel de Jong, Kevin Ellis, Jalil Anibaba, and Amadou Dia. The big question is who replaces Opara in the middle of defense. My feeling is that Peter Vermes will change as little as possible about the team that played against Salt Lake last week. That means inserting Ellis into the center of defense with Besler while Anibaba stays out wide right. The only other change that I could see from the lineup against RSL is if Graham Zusi is ready to return from his hamstring injury. If he's ready to go he slots right back into the lineup in place of Jacob Peterson on the wing.
Anibaba - Ellis - Besler - de Jong
Feilhaber - Espinoza
Zusi - Dwyer - Nemeth
Number to Remember - 25 - That's how many games in a row that the Galaxy are unbeaten at the Stub Hub Center. They have not lost there since the season opener of last season across all competitions. Twenty-three of those 25 games have come as the "home" team, the other two were as the visitors when playing Chivas USA. So KC winning tomorrow, they'll have to do something that hasn't been done in over a year.
Key Match Up - Dom Dwyer vs Omar Gonzalez and AJ de la Garza - Kansas City has been getting Dwyer more involved in the games lately than he was earlier in the season. Over the last two games, Dwyer has been much more involved, scoring one and having three others ruled out either due to an offside call or foul. But the key is that he's getting the ball in dangerous positions. Earlier in the season Dwyer was left all alone up top against center backs who usually had a couple inches on him. With that, Dwyer was starved of service. Tomorrow KC will need to keep him involved against one of the better central defensive pairings in the league.
PREDICTION - Sporting's offense, while looking more dangerous than the 1 shot on goal suggests, the team has still scored just one goal from the run of play this season in six games. That's really just not good enough, especially with Opara out, this team can't rely solely on set pieces. Against a Galaxy defense that could have a fatigued Gonzalez in the lineup, KC should really try to run at him more tomorrow. But I just don't think that KC is clicking well enough right now in the offensive third of the field to win this game. With or without Keane, I think that the Galaxy are just better than KC is right now.
SKC - 1 (Nemeth)
LA - 2 (Gordon, Husidic)