Preview: LA Galaxy Build Momentum Before Hosting Top of Table Sporting Kansas City

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CARSON, CA - MARCH 31: Sigi Schmid the head coach / manager of Los Angeles Galaxy during the MLS match between Los Angeles FC and Los Angeles Galaxy at StubHub Center on March 31, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

Carson, Calif. – The LA Galaxy, fresh off the heels of their cardiac arrest inducing victory against local rivals Los Angeles FC, face another early season challenge as they take on MLS Western Conference front-runners Sporting Kansas City. Despite the current standings, the LA Galaxy feel good heading into the contest. With their new Swedish goal-scorer in hand, the LA Galaxy will be looking to field a near full-strength team for the first time since opening day.

Preview: LA Galaxy Build Momentum Before Hosting Top of Table Sporting Kansas City

LA Galaxy vs. Sporting Kansas City
2018 MLS Regular Season
StubHub Center
April 8, 2018 – 6 pm PT
TV: FS1
Stream: MLS Live

Following their 4-3 comeback victory in the inaugural Él Tráfico, the LA Galaxy look to continue their strong home start against Sporting Kansas City. In 2017, the Galaxy didn’t win their second home game until September 2. This year’s version achieved that milestone before concluding the season’s opening month. Furthermore, the Galaxy’s historic win against LAFC is made more impressive as the Galaxy played without any of their three designated players. If the LA Galaxy plan to push forward in 2018, they will need a result against a Sporting Kansas City side that is coming off a 1-0 victory against D.C. United.

What to Watch For:

ZLATAN!

The hype-train has left the station, and it doesn’t plan on returning any time soon. Zlatan Ibrahimovic capped off the epic, Él Tráfico Derby in Homeric fashion. However, in this tale, the LA Galaxy didn’t use a horse. Instead, they used a lion, and he wasn’t a decoy. Zlatan entered the game to a standing ovation, equalized with a long-range volley, and headed home the winner in stoppage time jubilation.

Despite the lofty wishes of fans, Zlatan has tempered expectations.

“Expect scoring goals like this every game? No. I can already kill the buzz. Every week will not be like this. Play good. Prepare good. Win the games and that’s the way it works. I hope we can control the game better, and play under control. Don’t expect crazy things every game. I’ll try, but it’s not often it goes in.” [1]

Zlatan goes further to admit he is still adapting to the time-change and building fitness in his legs. Regardless of what fans may want, Zlatan will work himself into the team in a pragmatic fashion. This will help build him up without rushing him into situations that risk the Galaxy’s season.

The Starting XI:

The LA Galaxy will likely come out in a 4-5-1 formation. There should be no surprises in defense.

The biggest questions will be in the midfield. LA Galaxy Head Coach Sigi Schmid has raised fitness concerns about Sebastian Lletget, who is still returning to form after missing nearly a year after his Lisfranc injury. Moreover, injured midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini have participated in full training this week. They should both be available, but Schmid shouldn’t look to press Alessandrini too soon. Hamstring injuries are unpredictable, and it would be unfortunate to risk his season for this one match.

Expect to see Zlatan as a late-game substitute regardless of the score. Besides giving the fans what they came to see, Schmid will want to continue building the Galaxy’s leading scorer’s fitness as he builds towards being fully fit.

The remaining two substitutions will be predicated by the scoreline. Alessandrini can enter as an attacking option on either wing. Baggio Husidic can add the calmness on the ball required to create chances against a compact defense. On the flip-side, Servando Carrasco will be used as a bruiser to add anchorage in the midfield if the Galaxy are protecting a late lead.

The Sporting Kansas City Threat

Sporting Kansas City come into the meeting sitting atop the Western Conference table.

As a team, they play through the middle of the field, which is where leading goal-scorer, Felipe Gutierrez, patrols. Despite their build-up coming through the wings at a rate of almost 75%, SKC find their chances on goal predominantly in the middle-third of the field. Consequently, 56% of their shots are taken from in front of goal. [2]

Their unique, long-ball-possession style has produced a 54% possession rate, which is good for third-best in MLS this season. They also lead the league in shots-per-game as they average nearly 18 shots-per-game with six of those finding their way on target. [3]

The LA Galaxy will be facing their most versatile attack to-date in this fixture, and it will require a strong performance from the defense to stop a robust Sporting Kansas City side.

Previous Meetings

The LA Galaxy lead the all-time series 24-14-22. Sporting Kansas City won both games against the Galaxy with a scoreline of 2-1 in 2017.

In the most recent meeting, the Galaxy conceded goals to Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara before adding one of their own from Dave Romney. In the contest, the Galaxy outshot SKC 17-10; however, most of those came in desperation late in the second half as the Galaxy looked to equalize.

Final Prediction: LA Galaxy 2, Sporting Kansas City 1

In the first meeting between the two teams in 2018, the LA Galaxy will continue their defense of the StubHub Center. Sporting Kansas City will attempt to play through the middle as they are want-to-do, but the LA Galaxy midfield will be up for the task.

Fueled on by a reinvigorated StubHub Center crowd, the LA Galaxy will get off the mark early with a goal from Ola Kamara who will be on the receiving end of an Ema Boateng cross from the left-side. Despite a flurry of shots from Sporting Kansas City, the teams will head into halftime with the Galaxy ahead 1-0.

Coming out of the break, Kamara will nab his first brace for the Galaxy. This time, the Galaxy will catch SKC with too many men upfield, and the counter will leave center-backs Ike Opara and Matt Besler scrambling to cover Kamara, Lletget, and Pontius as they look for the final ball from Boateng. Again, Boateng will find Kamara with a near-post cross that will land both of them on the MLS Team of the Week.

As the Galaxy bunker down, Sporting Kansas City will pull back a late-goal via forward Diego Rubio, but it won’t be enough.

If the LA Galaxy are able to control SKC midfielder, Felipe Gutierrez, they should be able to control the tempo of the match and see that Boateng and Feltscher are able to pump crosses into the box until a few of them find their home. And, if things look bleak late in the game, the Galaxy will turn to the combination of Alessandrini and Ibrahimovic to ignite the attack and bring home a Galaxy victory.

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