Sporting KC looks to boost playoff odds against struggling Galaxy

Peter Vermes' Sporting Kansas City squad will look to improve its playoff odds as the Los Angeles Galaxy visits Children's Mercy Park on Sunday.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports/Jeffrey Swinger

With a newly minted U.S. Open Cup trophy in the trophy case, Sporting Kansas City returns its attention to MLS play as the Los Angeles Galaxy comes to Kansas City for a Sunday afternoon match at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting KC defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-1 Wednesday night to claim its fourth major trophy and third Open Cup in the last six years. SKC currently stands at 11-6-11, possessing 44 points in a close playoff race with several other teams.

Now it’s time to make a final charge heading into the MLS playoffs.

“I think that’s always a big question, after you win something, to have to continue on,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes said of the quick turnaround. “It’s truly about understanding that we accomplished the goal there, (but) now that is completely ended. We now have to get our focus back on the league. We have to be focused on the next game at hand, which is LA on the weekend.”

Los Angeles (7-16-6, 27 points) appears to be playing out the string, as it is well behind the red line with just five matches remaining. The Galaxy have just one win in their last 16 matches. To make matters worse, there’s in-fighting on the roster.

“I can make a run, but if your teammate doesn’t see you then your run doesn’t matter,” forward Giovani dos Santos said following LA’s latest loss. “There are a couple things right now that we’re still building on. If you see last year, I remember my numbers were different. This time, I’m working harder than last year. I’m making good runs, but not getting recognition from the team.”

Santos scored 14 goals last season, but has scored just six this season.

Interestingly, the Galaxy have performed better on the road than they have at home. They are one of two clubs (D.C. United) with losing records at home, but their 2-9-4 mark at StubHub Center is easily the worst. They are a respectable 5-7-2 on the road, but they’ll have to break through in Kansas City where no other club has been able to do so.

Sporting is the only club in MLS to not suffer a home defeat this season. In fact, they have not lost at home in MLS play since May 2016, a span of 23 matches. Sporting is 9-0-5 at home this season.

The key for Sporting remains a stifling defense. Goalkeeper Tim Melia leads MLS with 10 clean sheets (tied with Seattle’s Stefan Frei) and a 0.79 goals-against average. Sporting is the only club to allow less than a goal per match.

The opposite has been true for the Galaxy. They stand second-worst in MLS with 56 goals allowed. They are tied with several other clubs with the fewest shutouts (5) in MLS. They have a league-worst 0.93 points per match.

Sporting trails in the all-time series with a 20-24-11 record against Los Angeles. SKC is 15-8-5 at home, including 2-0-1 at Children’s Mercy Park.