Sporting Kansas City grabbed a 2-0 win at the LA Galaxy on Sunday evening, using first goals of the season from forwards Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton to close out July 4th weekend across MLS in style.

For the time being, SKC have vaulted ahead of the Seattle Sounders for first place in the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield races. They're the first team to reach 13 regular-season games in 2021, and now will enter a buy week as combined with the impending Gold Cup break.

HIGHLIGHTS: LA Galaxy vs. Sporting Kansas City | July 04, 2021

Russell tallied in the 81st minute via a looping header, reacting quickly after Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond saved his initial shot. Felipe Hernandez pressured Adam Saldana in a battle of homegrown midfielders, then Sporting’s captain sprung to life to start the second-half surge.

Shelton iced the game in the 95th minute on a breakaway, rounding Bond before tapping into the empty net. The Galaxy flooded numbers forward in search of an equalizer, and Shelton capitalized on a counter-attack that began in Sporting's defensive half.

Just before Russell scored, Sporting nearly opened the scoring in the 80th minute when Roger Espinoza flicked on a Gianluca Busio free kick. Espinoza’s header forced Bond into a strong save, then Andreu Fontas’ back-post header flashed square off the post.

The Galaxy dictated one-way traffic during the first half, outshooting Sporting 9-1. But left winger Samuel Grandsir and attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez, LA’s two liveliest players, did everything but apply the finishing touch.

Some of LA’s frustrations were attributed to solid goalkeeping from Tim Melia, who registered five saves during the first half. None were bigger than a double-stop in the 34th minute, keeping out a long-range blast from Vazquez and doing just enough to deny Grandsir’s follow-up effort, which trickled off the post for a corner kick.

LA had another great bid in the 31st minute, though Kevin Cabral’s header from Vazquez’s deep cross steered just wide of the post. And when a pinball-like sequence bounced out to midfielder Sebastian Lletget in the 65th minute, an outstretched leg from Sporting center back Ilie Sanchez deflected wide his fizzing volley.

The Galaxy suffered an injury concern late in the first half, as center back Sega Coulibaly exited in the 40th minute with a leg muscle strain. They dropped midfielder Rayan Raveloson onto the backline, throwing the Madagascar international a curveball during his MLS debut.

LA lacked the clinical touch, perhaps attributed to Golden Boot presented by Audi leader Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez being a late lineup scratch as a precautionary measure due to a calf issue. That put Ethan Zubak into the No. 9 role from the jump.

To be fair, Sporting were missing their star striker as well. Alan Pulido is recovering from a foot laceration he suffered in Week 10, which shifted Shelton centrally as a result.

Goals

  • 81' – SKC – Johnny Russell | WATCH
  • 90'+5' – SKC – Khiry Shelton | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: In a battle of two of the league's top teams, Sporting pulled away late to climb the standings. The Galaxy could have leapfrogged them, but Sporting (with one more game played) are now ahead of the Seattle Sounders for the Supporters’ Shield lead and first place in the Western Conference. They hold an 8W-3L-2D record. LA’s wayward finishing played a big role, as did injuries and international absences. 
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Johnny Russell picked a great time to score his first goal of the year. The captain's now on 1g/3a through 12 games (eight starts) for MLS' highest-scoring squad.

GOAL: Johnny Russell, Sporting Kansas City - 81st minute

  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Melia finished with seven saves. Sporting's goalkeeper kept the visitors in the hunt, backstopping a bend-don't-break defense that managed to stymie the Galaxy.

SAVE: Tim Melia, Sporting KC - 34rd minute

Next Up

  • LA: Wednesday, July 7 vs. FC Dallas | 10:30 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
  • SKC: Wednesday, July 21 vs. San Jose Earthquakes | 8:30 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)