Sporting KC looks to fare better on the road against Galaxy

Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia leads MLS in shutouts (nine), goals against average (0.65) and save percentage (82.8) this season.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy have an eight-game unbeaten streak heading into their match with MLS Western Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.

The Galaxy, who own a 6-5-4 mark and are in fifth place in the Western Conference with 24 points, also have a four-match home unbeaten (3-0-1) streak against Sporting KC. The last time Sporting KC won against the Galaxy in California was in 2010, and it has only emerged victorious five times there, posting a 5-16-7 record.

Sporting KC heads into Saturday’s match with 27 points and a 7-4-6 record overall. It is a much different team at home (6-0-2 record) than on the road (1-4-4). Sporting KC has scored just three goals in nine away games, the second fewest in MLS.

The home team is 6-0-4 in the last 10 meetings between the teams, but LA is just 1-3-3 at home this year.

In Sporting KC’s favor is that the Galaxy just played on Wednesday against the Colorado Rapids, winning 3-1. Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo believes the exhilaration over that win will be more important than the fatigue from playing matches so close to each other.

“It’s huge,” he said. “Midweek, in Colorado, at altitude, to get three points — people don’t understand how difficult it is. You feel it in your chest the entire time.”

The Galaxy are dealing with many injuries and the notable international absence of Giovani Dos Santos, who is with Mexico’s FIFA Confederations Cup team.

The Galaxy have changed since they played Sporting KC to three draws last season.

Bruce Arena is no longer their coach. Another big change is the loss of Robbie Keane, who scored 83 goals in six seasons with Los Angeles. Instead of directly replacing Keane, the Galaxy looked to move Gyasi Zardes in his place at forward.

Zardes has dealt with injuries that have prevented him from playing to his potential. He has no goals and only one assist, and recently moved back out wide. The real replacement for Keane has been Romain Alessandrini, who has scored eight goals while adding seven assists in 15 games.

Alessandrini and the Galaxy will go against a tough Sporting KC defense.

Goalkeeper Tim Melia leads MLS in shutouts (nine), goals against average (0.65) and save percentage (82.8). Midfielder Benny Feilhaber leads MLS with 29 chances created from open play, while Graham Zusi leads MLS defenders in the same category with 24.

“Defensively, we have a really good mentality as a team,” Sporting KC defender Matt Besler said. “The guys in front of the back four and the goalkeeper are doing a tremendous amount of work, which makes our job easier. It makes the plays predictable for us, so that we’re able to make plays.

“We have a guy behind us in Tim Melia, who is the best goalkeeper in the league this year by a wide margin, in my opinion. Any time we need him to come up with a big save he’s been able to do that.”