Sporting Kansas City (10-13-7, 37 points) suffered a 7-2 defeat on the road to the LA Galaxy (14-13-3, 45 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on Sunday night.
Leading scorer Felipe Gutierrez tallied Sporting’s two goals, while Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a hat trick for the hosts.
Sporting almost took the lead in just the third minute as Gutierrez latched onto a loose ball 25 yards from goal and his speculative strike took a heavy deflection off a Galaxy defender – wrong-footing goalkeeper David Bingham – but the ball ricocheted off the post and out.
Four minutes later, Johnny Russell’s free kick delivery found Erik Hurtado at the near post who headed narrowly over the bar.
The Galaxy threatened for the first time in the 11th minute as legendary striker Ibrahimovic found a yard of space in the area, but his looping header was tipped over the bar by Tim Melia.
In the 19th minute, Cristian Pavon found himself isolated with Graham Zusi and cut inside the Sporting right back before lashing an effort on target that Melia dove to his left to beat away for a corner.
Sporting KC took the lead in the 24th minute with an expertly taken goal from leading scorer Gutierrez.
Graham Zusi’s whipped in delivery was just taken out of Gutierrez’s reach by Daniel Steres. The ball fell to Gerso Fernandes who immediately fed the Chilean once again, and Gutierrez cut inside of his marker before finishing into the corner for his 11th goal of the MLS campaign to make the score 1-0.
Sporting almost doubled the lead in the 25th minute as Zusi sprung Gerso in behind the Galaxy defense, and after a stellar first touch, Gerso’s right-footed effort was well blocked by Bingham.
Two minutes later, Russell struck a knuckling free kick that had Bingham stretching but shaved the top of the crossbar on its way over.
The Galaxy were awarded a lifeline in the 32nd minute when Matt Besler was called for a handball in the area, and referee Ted Unkel pointed to the penalty spot.
Ibrahimovic stepped up and Melia denied his initial attempt, but the rebound fell back to the Swede who tapped home his 24th goal of the season to make it 1-1. Melia has now faced three penalties in 2019 and has saved each one.
In the 34th minute, a long ball over the top found Pavon who spun away from Graham Smith before curling a stunning effort that clipped the outside of the post before heading out for a goal kick.
Melia kept the score level in the second minute of first-half stoppage time as Ibrahimovic slid through Sebastian Lletget but the Sporting KC goalkeeper blocked his low effort with his legs.
The Galaxy opened the second half in roaring fashion, taking the lead in the 48th minute when Joe Corona latched onto Cristian Pavon’s lofted cross from the left and heading into the corner to make the score 2-1.
Smith almost pulled Sporting level in the 50th minute when he reached a Luis Martins cross from the left wing and nodded an effort toward the near post that Bingham clawed away on his goal.
Instead it was the Galaxy that pulled even further ahead in 51st minute, as Ibrahimovic controlled Rolf Feltscher’s cross from the right wing, spun away from his marker and fired into the top corner for his 25th goal of the season to make the score 3-1 in favor of the hosts.
Sporting almost pulled back within one in the 56th minute as Gutierrez’s stunning ball over the top found Gerso, who in turn whipped in a near-post cross into the path of Erik Hurtado whose flicked attempt flashed narrowly over the bar.
In the 63rd minute, Gerso’s low cross narrowly evaded Hurtado in front of goal, before Gutierrez slipped Hurtado in on goal seconds later and his powerful shot was blocked by Bingham.
Sporting kept pressing the issue and went close once again in the 68th minute as substitute Gianluca Busio – on the field for all of a minute – latched onto Hurtado’s layoff but sent his shot inches wide of the post from 12 yards out.
As the story went, the Galaxy punished Sporting’s missed chances almost immediately as Pavon broke away at the visitor’s backline and despite being denied by Melia, the ball fell perfectly to Uriel Antuna who tapped home his fourth of the year to make it 4-1.
In the 77th minute, the Galaxy piled on a fifth goal as Lletget found space inside the Sporting area and headed home Dave Romney’s cross to make it 5-1.
Five turned into six for LA two minutes later as Lletget doubled his tally for the day by nodding home Antuna’s delivery across the face of goal. Ibrahimovic completed his hat trick in the 85th minute after converting after being set up by Efrain Alvarez in the 85th minute.
Sporting pulled one back in the wild affair one minute later as Busio laid a ball across to Gutierrez whose powerful attempt from 25 yards took a slight deflection off Daniel Steres and flew in off the underside of the crossbar and into the net for his 12th goal of the campaign to make it 7-2.
Sporting almost grabbed another in the 88th minute as Gutierrez’s cross was met by Daniel Salloi at the far post, but his downward header was expertly saved by Bingham as Sporting was unable to draw any closer on the night.
Sporting Kansas City heads home next weekend to play host to the Colorado Rapids at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, Sept. 21. The contest will kick off at 7:30 p.m. with live coverage on FOX Sports KC Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
- Story from Sporting KC