Sporting KC tries to keep playoff hopes alive with a win tonight in LA

Two founding members of Major League Soccer hoping to preserve their playoff hopes will square off Sunday night when Sporting Kansas City (10-12-7, 37 points) visits the LA Galaxy (13-13-3, 42 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

The all-important Western Conference clash will kick off at 9 p.m. with national television coverage on FS1 and FOX Deportes. Fans can also catch the game live locally on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and La Grande 13480 AM (Spanish) or stream the action via the FOX Sports App. Additional in-game updates will be available on the Sporting KC App, and the Final Whistle postgame show will air immediately afterward on ESPN 94.5 FM.

LA and Sporting enter Week 28 as the two teams immediately below the playoff line in an ultra-competitive Western Conference race. The Galaxy, having missed the postseason in 2017 and 2018, are a point behind FC Dallas for the seventh and final playoff spot in the West.

On the opposite side, Sporting’s club-record eight-year postseason streak is under threat: Manager Peter Vermes’ men are six points shy of seventh place heading into the final five league games of the 2019.

Sporting is looking to rebound from a last-gasp 2-1 loss at the Portland Timbers last Saturday, which snapped a three-game winning streak and kept the club rooted in ninth place.

Benny Feilhaber notched an MLS Goal of the Week winner near the hour-mark to give the visitors a 1-0 lead, but Portland rallied behind a Jeremy Ebobisse equalizer and a 94th-minute winner from substitute Brian Fernandez.

The setback in Portland saw Sporting play without five players who were on international duty as well as leading scorer Felipe Gutierrez, who served a one-game suspension for caution accumulation.

Gutierrez and Sporting’s international contingent—namely Johnny Russell (nine goals), Krisztian Nemeth (seven goals), Botond Barath, Nico Hasler and Gianluca Busio—will all be available for selection this weekend. Russell and Nemeth rank second and third on Sporting’s MLS scoring charts, while Barath, Hasler and Busio have also served valuably over the course of 2019.

Like Sporting, the Galaxy will aim to put a narrow 2-1 loss behind them on Sunday, having slipped to the upstart Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night.

Giancarlo Gonzalez opened his MLS scoring account in the 82nd minute, drawing LA level shortly after Cole Bassett had headed Colorado ahead, but the hosts surged back in front on a late Nicolas Mezquida penalty kick. With the loss, the Galaxy are now 1-5-2 in their last eight MLS matches since July 27.

Under the guidance of manager and former MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, LA acquired Argentine international playmaker Cristian Pavon in early August to bolster a team that had risen as high as second place this summer. He played an instrumental role in the club’s 3-3 draw against rivals LAFC on Aug. 25, scoring a goal and assisting another, but the Galaxy have managed just one win in Pavon’s six starts.

For the second straight year, international soccer icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic has carried LA on his shoulders. After netting 22 goals in 2018, the Swede has bagged 23 more this season — good for second place in the Golden Boot race — and has accounted for a remarkable 55 percent of the Galaxy’s goal scoring. His seven game-winning strikes are two more than any other MLS player this season.

Sporting has emerged with two wins and a draw in each of their last three road matches against LA. The stretch began with a 0-0 draw in June 2016 and was followed by a 2-1 triumph in June 2017 and a 2-0 victory in April 2018.

Overall, Sporting is 4-1-4 in the last nine meetings with the Galaxy since October 2015. The lone loss during that stretch came on May 29 of this year when Ibrahimovic and Favio Alvarez paced LA to a 2-0 result and its first victory in Kansas City since 2007.

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