by Brian Turrel
Johnny Russell’s late, rain-soaked equalizer helped Sporting Kansas City crawl into the MLS playoffs, as they tied the LA Galaxy 1-1 at Children’s Mercy Park on Friday night.
Russell zigzagged his way past two Galaxy defenders to take the decisive shot in the 83rd minute of the game.
The Galaxy took the lead midway through the first half when defender Matt Besler was called for tripping Galaxy forward Ola Kamara as he attacked the goal. Zlatan Ibramovic took the penalty shot, which he knocked into the left corner past goalkeeper Tim Melia, who had committed to the other direction.
Sporting KC controlled the ball 60 percent of the time, and made 34 shot attempts to only 8 by Los Angeles. Sporting had several opportunities where a goal looked inevitable, but came away with near misses or one of Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham’s 8 saves.
In his post-game press conference, head coach Peter Vermes called out the poor officiating by referee Jair Marrufo as well as replay officials. Two calls particularly drew his wrath because they directly affected the scoring.
In the tripping penalty against Besler, it did not appear that he made contact with Kamara. Also, late in the game, Bingham clocked KC forward Diego Rubio in the head as both went up for a cross. Although contact to the head is a foul, no penalty was awarded to Kansas City in that situation.
A win would have helped Sporting’s cause in the MLS Western Conference playoff chase. Even though they’re now assured of a place, SKC remains in a close race with FC Dallas and Los Angeles FC for a first-round bye and home field advantage in their playoff matches.
Sporting KC will play next at the Vancouver Whitecaps on Oct. 17. They’ll be back in Kansas City to play LAFC on Oct. 28, the last game of the regular season.