KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite their current difference of fortunes, Sporting Kansas City certainly don’t fear the LA Galaxy, who they face Saturday (10:30 pm ET; Direct Kick, MatchDay Live).
But the respect manager Peter Vermes and his players have for their opponent is unmistakable. None more so than the acknowledgment of the threat a well-rested David Beckham will pose with his pinpoint distribution from his midfield position.
“When he came here, he was already the best server of the ball in the league,” Vermes said. “I don’t think any of that has changed.
“It’s not just deep-lying — he does it from anywhere: the right side, the left side, long-distance, short-distance. He’s just a very good passer of the ball. He’s also got a calmness in possession that is a big help to them. He gives a pause to their game.”
One of Kansas City’s main focuses for Saturday night at the Home Depot Center will be to stop Beckham from delivering the deadly crosses that have allowed him to rack up five assists this season for Western Conference-leading LA.
But as much respect as Vermes has for the threat Beckham poses, that doesn’t mean he was willing to share how Sporting planned to curtail it. Asked how he try to neutralize the Englishman, Vermes merely smiled and deftly sidestepped the question.
“Many different ways,” he said. “Many different ways.”
Of course, one way to stop Beckham is to blanket the players on the end of his passes, and Sporting will have their hands full with Landon Donovan, Juan Pablo Ángel and Chad Barrett providing targets up top.
Although Ángel hasn’t yet found his form in Galaxy colors, Donovan’s track record and understanding with Beckham means SKC have a pretty good idea on who to zero in on when Beckham does find space and gets his head up.
“He finds balls deep to Donovan,” Vermes said. “That sort of partnership, that dynamic duo if you will, is something that we have to be very alert to throughout the game.”
Unfortunately for Sporting, LA won’t have to similarly burden themselves with Sporting’s own Designated Player, as Omar Bravo will once again be available. The Mexican striker continues to be sidelined as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.
Though disappointing, it was not an unexpected development for Vermes. Sporting have been dealing with the striker’s absence since the second match of the season, when Bravo was shown a red card against the Fire and was subsequently injured in a US Open Cup match against Houston.
“I had a good feeling that Omar might not be available coming into this week,” he said. “I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again, I’m not going to jeopardize a guy’s health for one game.”
Even though it is just one game, Sporting KC are certainly in an unenviable position. They have lost their last three and haven’t won since opening day, leaving them rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference table with patience steadily waning.
“It’s very important for the team to win the game,” defender Aurélien Collin said, “but we won’t die after the game if we don’t win. We need to win because these last couple weeks we have been working and things are coming [together].”
Should Sporting happen to walk away with another defeat, it’s not the end of the world, even if everyone involved would desperately like to take three points back to Kansas City.
“We’re not [panicking],” Vermes said. “I’m not, the players aren’t.”