Preview: Sporting look to dent league-leading Galaxy

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs LA GALAXY
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
September 5, 2011
6 pm ET (FOX Soccer/Deportes; GolTV Can.)

A pair of clubs currently sitting in playoff positions meet in an interconference matchup when the LA Galaxy visit Sporting Kansas City on Monday afternoon at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting are coming off just their second-ever loss in their new ground, another stoppage-time loss in a 3-2 defeat by FC Dallas last weekend. The Galaxy are still the MLS overall leader, winners of five of their last six, though they had last week’s fixture in New York postponed.

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REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Brian Poeschel; JAR (opposite): Peter Manikowski; 4th: Daniel Fitzgerald. MLS Career: 137 games; FC/gm: 26.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 42; pens: 53

INJURY REPORT

  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); DOUBTFUL: MF Craig Rocastle (R knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Birahim Diop (groin strain); PROBABLE: MF Milos Stojcev (R ankle sprain)
  • LA GALAXY – OUT: DF Sean Alvarado (R knee surgery); DF Gregg Berhalter (R foot sprain); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (back spasms); MF Jovan Kirovski (L ankle sprain); GK Donovan Ricketts (L ulna fracture)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES:

  • KC: Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone); Teal Bunbury (USA, at Belgium)
  • LA: Chris Birchall (Trinidad & Tobago, at Barbados); Robbie Keane (Ireland, at Russia)

SUSPENDED: KC: Teal Bunbury (through Sept. 5)

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Aurelien Collin
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Omar Bravo, Julio Cesar, Birahim Diop … LA: David Beckham, Chris Birchall, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, Juninho, Michael Stephens

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (49 meetings): Sporting 17 wins (2 shootout), 58 goals … Galaxy 22 wins (0 shootout), 76 goals … Ties 10
  • AT KC (24 meetings): Sporting 12 wins (1 shootout), 33 goals … Galaxy 8 wins (0 shootout), 32 goals … Ties 4
  • In the first meeting this season, Landon Donovan scored twice to lead the Galaxy to a 4-1 victory May 14 at The Home Depot Center.
  • It was the Galaxy’s first victory against Kansas City since 2008, a 3-1 win in Carson on May 24. KC won three of the five meetings in between, with two draws.
  • Coaches record: Bruce Arena vs. KC: P19 W6 L8 D5 … Peter Vermes v LA: P3 W1 L1 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 5/14: LA 4, KC 1 (Donovan 44, 46; Angel 64; Beckham 87 – own goal 39)
  • Sporting KC took the lead courtesy of a gift, when Milos Stojcev swung a ball in from the right flank and Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez was able only to re-direct it into the corner of his own net.
  • The Galaxy hit for the equalizer before the end of the half. After David Beckham taken down inside the box, referee Baldomero Toledo immediately pointed to the spot, and Landon Donovan calmly buried the penalty kick.
  • LA broke the game open in the second half. First, Donovan and Chad Barrett combined on a give-and-go into the penalty area from where Donovan beat a helpless Eric Kronberg.
  • Then Juan Pablo Angel found the back of the net shortly after coming on as a substitute. Barrett sent Ángel through and he easily slotted home from inside the area.
  • Beckham then put an exclamation mark on the match when he buried a direct free kick from outside the left corner of the penalty area.
  • LA GALAXY (4-1-3-2): Josh Saunders - Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant - Juninho (Michael Stephens 85) - Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Mike Magee - Chad Barrett (Chris Birchall 81), Miguel Lopez (Juan Pablo Angel 61).
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Eric Kronberg - Michael Harrington, Julio Cesar, Aurelien Collin, Roger Espinoza (Chance Myers 57) - Davy Arnaud, Stephane Auvray - Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 67), Milos Stojcev (Ryan Smith 65), Graham Zusi - Teal Bunbury

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City lost for just the second time in their new home ground, FC Dallas overcoming a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 victory Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 36 points from 26 matches on the season, in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Sporting took the lead in the 22nd minute. Kei Kamara picked off a pass deep in the FC Dallas end and raced into the box unmolested, sending a low drive just inside the back post.
  • KC then doubled their lead at three-quarter mark of the match. Teal Bunbury broke free on the right and bounced the ball directly into the path of Omar Bravo at the back post for a simple tap-in.
  • But the advantage didn't last two minutes. From a free kick out of the left, Daniel Hernandez served the ball into the area where it just cleared the head of Ugo Ihemelu and squirted through the goalmouth, past KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and inside the back post.
  • The home side then went down a man in the 76th minute when Bunbury shoved FCD’s Jair Benítez, collecting his second yellow of the match and receiving his marching orders from referee Chris Penso.
  • The visitors took advantage in the 89th minute. Brek Shea found space on the left flank and curled in a cross that found Maicon Santos, who powered his downward header in the side netting.
  • Then in stoppage time, Shea got free again on the left side and drove in another cross, this time finding substitute Bobby Warshaw streaking toward goal and he nodded home his first MLS goal for the game-winner.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made no changes to the team that defeated D.C. United at Livestrong Sporting Park.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-1-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Michael Harrington 89) - Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza - Omar Bravo (Aurelien Collin 71) - Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (sent off 76), C.J. Sapong

TEAM NEWS

  • It was the second loss ever for Sporting at their new home – and both have come on a goal in second-half
  • stoppage time (Aug. 6; Lamar Neagle for Seattle, 92+).
  • “I don’t know what happened from there, we lost concentration. It’s frustrating this is about the fourth time this has happened this season, we either have to settle for a point, or we lose. This is the second time at home,” said Roger Espinoza.
  • Sporting have conceded 11 of their 34 goals in the final 15-plus minutes of games, tied for second-most in MLS (along with San Jose, Portland and New England, one fewer than Vancouver).
  • “It was a wakeup call the first few times it happened,” Graham Zusi said. “If we want to get anything out of this season, we’ve got to be able to hold on to a lead. That’s the bottom line.”
  • Sporting have allowed seven goals this season from crosses, ranking in the upper third of the league – and 10 goals from free kick services and corners, a total that is tied for most in MLS (with Toronto FC).
  • “We did more than enough being up two goals at home to secure the win. It’s not even closing down the game,” KC manager Peter Vermes said. “At the end we weren’t competing enough. They got two balls in from the outside, which we should be close enough to even block them. Then we let two guys get in on the back door not necessarily unmarked but not challenged like they should be and they scored two goals which is a credit to them.”
  • Teal Bunbury’s ejection was the eighth red card seen this season by Sporting. The New England Revolution lead MLS with nine; the MLS record is 11 expulsions by the MetroStars in 2002. Sporting have conceded late leads three times in seven games this season playing a man down.
  • “We could talk all day about that stuff,” Vermes said, “but we’ve been down that road so many times. It’s old for me. It is what it is. We have to be able to play in those situations, and we didn’t do it.”
  • Kei Kamara has now scored goals in back-to-back games and in three of his last four. Since being installed in the starting lineup on July 16, a place he has not relinquished, Kamara has scored five of his eight goals on the season.
  • The LA game will be the eighth of Sporting’s MLS-record nine-game homestand. The Sky Blues have taken 13 of a possible 21 points so far; of the final six games of the season, three will be on the road.
  • “We don’t deserve to be in first if we let opportunities like these get lost,” Omar Bravo said. “We have to take care of it when we have the opportunity to take care of it.”

LA GALAXY

The LA Galaxy return to league play after a weekend off, their last match a 2-0 defeat of the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy have 51 points from 26 games on the season, leading the Western Conference and the MLS overall table.

LAST MATCH

  • It took Robbie Keane just 21 minutes to open his MLS account for the Galaxy. David Beckham played a free kick from midfield over the San Jose defense, and Keane easily walked onto the ball with only goalkeeper Jon Busch to beat, rounding him easily before slipping the ball into an empty net.
  • The Quakes went down a man in the 81st minute when Steven Beitashour was sent off by referee Andrew Chapin after he deemed that the defender intentionally kicked Landon Donovan.
  • Mike Magee punctuated the victory with a goal in the game's final minute, knocking in a cross from close range from Sean Franklin while completely unmarked in front of goal.
  • Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made two changes to the team that notched a 3-1 defeat of FC Dallas at The Home Depot Center. Frankie Hejduk came in at fullback for A.J. DeLaGarza, and Robbie Keane made his debut in place of Mike Magee.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Frankie Hejduk, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant – Sean Franklin (Dan Keat 92+), Juninho, David Beckham, Landon Donovan - Adam Cristman (Miguel Lopez 79), Robbie Keane (Mike Magee 72).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Galaxy were scheduled to play the New York Red Bulls last Sunday at Red Bull Arena, a match postponed to Tues., Oct. 4 (8 p.m.; ESPN2).
  • "For our legs it was actually a great thing. It gave us a chance to take some time off and recharge our batteries. We have a lot to think about (this week) because (Chris Birchall), (Robbie Keane) and Landon (Donovan) are all out (on international duty), so we need to restructure our lineup,” said Chad Barrett. “And we have some injuries we picked up over the weekend.”
  • The Thursday before the postponement, the Galaxy won their second CONCACAF Champions League match on the trot, defeating Costa Rica’s LD Alajuelense 2-0 at The Home Depot Center. Omar Gonzalez put the Galaxy into a 38th-minute lead from a David Beckham service, then Chad Barrett sealed the scoreline (71).
  • Here’s the Galaxy team: Josh Saunders; A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter (Sean Franklin 27), Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee; Adam Cristman (Chad Barrett 71), Robbie Keane (Chris Birchall 91+).
  • "I would not have probably played Beckham or Gonzalez and it was a plus for us. Then, with the injury to Berhalter, Sunday would have been difficult,” said Galaxy boss Bruce Arena. “This is going to be the story in September and October, to deal with these games sandwiched between MLS games in an important part of this competition as well as MLS so it’s really going to be a challenging month of September for us.”
  • Barrett was able to return to action for the first time since July 4. “I think I took the right steps this time so I wouldn't get re-injured,” he said. “The knee feels completely normal again. It felt good to get out there and run with the guys. It's kind of weird sitting on the bench."
  • Making his MLS debut, Irish international striker Robbie Keane made his MLS debut and scored his first league goal “When he gets settled a little more, when he’s not less than 48 hours from getting off a flight, you’ll probably see a little more energy,” Donovan said. “But I thought he was in great spots; he did well with the ball.”
  • David Beckham recorded the assist on Keane’s goal, his 11th of the season, two behind Houston’s Brad Davis for the league lead. Beckham has four assists in his last five games; his 11 assists are a new single-season high for his MLS career.
  • “It’s great to have a player who knows where to run, who you know is going to be on the end of the ball when you play that pass that’s going to set up a goal,” Beckham said. “He’s just going to help the team. He’s going to give us confidence, he’s going to give us goals. It showed [Saturday]. He’s so confident and comfortable in front of the goal, he takes his time and he scores. Let’s hope he continues to do that.”
  • Dropped to the substitutes’ bench for Keane, Mike Magee still came on for the final 20 minutes and scored a goal for a second consecutive game.
  • Frankie Hejduk started at right back, his first appearance in a league game since April 17, when he started vs. Chicago.
  • “We know Frankie’s a good player, an experienced player, and the only way we are going to get him in a position to help our team down the stretch is to get him on the field,” Arena said. “I wasn’t sure whether we’d get 90 minutes out of him [Saturday] and did. I think that it was great, and hopefully, he can be part of a rotation of our backline.”