Grueling stretch for LA starts with trip to Kansas City

CARSON, Calif. — Beginning Monday, the LA Galaxy will play nine games in a 30-day stretch. It is perhaps fitting that the club will kick off that grueling slate with what has become one of the league’s most difficult challenges.

The Galaxy will visit Sporting KC on Monday (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer) in a match that was originally scheduled for Aug. 13. In their first trip to Livestrong Sporting Park, LA will face a squad that has been on a tear since June.

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“They’re the most confident team in the league right now, from some of their statements,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “That’s good. They’re flying high, doing well in their new stadium and feeling good about themselves.”

Sporting KC started out the season with a dismal 1-6-1 record but have lost just twice since then. Part of the turnaround is their new stadium, which has been the talk of the league since it opened on June 9.

“They have an amazing new stadium, great atmosphere and they’ve been fantastic at home, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t underestimate them,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said.

Playing before packed crowds always bodes well for the home side and an electric atmosphere gives the players something extra to look forward to.

“There’s a little bit of excitement,” Magee said. “We’ve heard some amazing things about the stadium. Always when you play in a good atmosphere it brings out the best in players.”

Sporting KC and the Galaxy have already met once this year. LA beat SKC 4-1 in May at the Home Depot Center, and while it may seem logical to draw comparisons from that match to Monday’s encounter, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has all but tossed that game out the window.

“That’s been completely forgotten and that has nothing to do with this game to be honest,” Arena said. “What we need to do is to continue to move forward as a team and play well.”

Sporting have been strong at home, posting a 6-2-4 mark at their new stadium. However, their two losses came against Seattle and FC Dallas, the two sides just behind the Galaxy in the Western Conference race. In each loss, KC conceded two late goals to reverse what had looked like sure wins.

The most recent defeat, last week’s 3-2 setback against Dallas, may bode well for the Galaxy as it gave LA a possible blueprint on how to attack their rivals. KC allowed a goal on a set piece and two more on crosses from the left flank.

“Wide play is going to be very important in the game because they do have three forwards generally and you’d rather them play with five midfielders than three forwards,” Dunivant said. “If we can get their two high guys pinned back and have us pushing on and them defending us, that’s certainly an advantage for us. If it’s the other way then we’re suddenly pinned back and things are a lot more difficult.”

Another factor in favor for the Galaxy is the status of their captain. Landon Donovan was originally slated to miss the match due to national team duty but he will skip the US match at Belgium on Sept. 6 in order to remain with LA.

“It’s certainly a bonus,” Arena said. “Landon is one of our better players and one of the better players in the league.”

Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at buenodad@gmail.com.