Sporting Kansas City (3-5-5, 14 points) suffered a 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy (9-5-1, 28 points) on Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park, succumbing to second-half strikes from Favio Alvarez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
LA entered the night winless in eight straight meetings with Sporting and 0-5-6 in their previous 11 trips to Kansas City, but Alvarez’s header in the 55th minute and Ibrahimovic’s close-range finish in the 86th minute ended both draughts and prevented the hosts from climbing out of 11th place in the Western Conference standings.
With a three-game homestand in the books, Sporting will now embark on a four-match road swing throughout June that begins Saturday with a visit to rivals Houston Dynamo (7-3-2, 23 points) at BBVA Compass Stadium. The contest will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Navigating a breathless stretch of three matches in seven days, Sporting Manager Peter Vermes deployed a starting lineup that included two changes from Sunday’s 3-2 defeat of Seattle Sounders FC. Center back Andreu Fontas stepped in for the rested Matt Besler, making his first appearance since April 27 after overcoming a calf injury, while Graham Zusi recovered from an oblique ailment to replace Nico Hasler and take the captain’s armband in Besler’s absence. On the attacking end, striker Krisztian Nemeth served the second of his two-game suspension, which opened the door for Yohan Croizet to once again occupy the center forward role.
Sporting failed to find the back of the net against a tidy Galaxy defense, but Wednesday’s outcome could have been far different had LA not survived a huge scare in the 15th minute. Croizet received a Benny Feilhaber through ball and played a neat cutback to the open Felipe Gutierrez, whose shot near the top of the box was blocked. Kelyn Rowe’s follow-up effort then dragged inches wide of the gaping frame, much to the chagrin of the 19,979 fans in attendance.
Making his 150th appearance for Sporting in all competitions, Tim Melia was forced into his first save of the night on 24 minutes. The goalkeeper dropped low after Dave Romney connected powerfully with Sebastian Lletget’s header and smothered the ball amidst a crowded goalmouth to keep the game scoreless.
Gutierrez and Rowe nearly combined for the breakthrough on the cusp of intermission, but LA goalkeeper David Bingham raced off his line and swiped the ball away for a corner kick that was defended successfully. Sporting were then prompted to make a halftime substitution as Besler replaced Botond Barath, who exited with tightness in his leg.
The Galaxy had lost four of their previous five matches but gained a foothold in the second stanza. Perry Kitchen played a crucial role in landing the first punch, swinging a pinpoint cross to the far post for Ibrahimovic to cushion back across the face of goal. Alvarez was left open to nod past Melia for his first career MLS goal in his third Galaxy appearance.
Gutierrez was left ruing his luck once more in the 62nd minute when his header off a Johnny Russell corner kick caromed off the top of the crossbar and behind. Sporting had been left to chance an equalizer and were exposed at the back seven mintues later, but Melia produced a superb kick save to thwart Ibrahimovic on the breakaway.
Zusi and second-half substitute Daniel Salloi both tried their luck from distance in the late stages, but Bingham punched away the former and the latter fizzed narrowly high.
Ibrahimovic put the game out of reach four minutes from full time, chesting down Uriel Antuna’s diagonal ball and slotting inside the near post for his 10th goal of the campaign and the 32nd of his two-year MLS career.