KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Sporting Kansas City just escaped a near two-month-long win-less skid earlier this week, but with a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday, the club will have to wait even longer to start any kind of winning streak.
Kansas City was coming off a 3-2 victory over Seattle just three days before, and on Wednesday, saw the return of an 18-man roster for the first time in weeks. Defenders Andreu Fontas and Graham Zusi both returned to the starting lineup after lengthy absences. SKC was still missing several key cogs (midfielder Roger Espinoza, forwards Gerso Fernandes and Krisztian Nemeth), but a full seven players filled the bench – something SKC hasn’t seen in a while, amidst a spring riddled by injuries.
“The fact that we have to play Sunday (vs. Seattle), Wednesday (vs. Galaxy), Saturday (at Houston) and with the group of guys we have coming back from injury, it’s just really difficult,” SKC head coach Peter Vermes said.
The fuller-than-normal lineup still wasn’t 100%: Fontas and Matt Besler were supposed to split minutes, but Besler ended up having to sub in for Botond Barath, who picked up a leg injury. Defender Jimmy Medranda, who came in in the 77th minute, is returning after a year-long absence and isn’t 90-minutes fit yet.
Despite the injury situation on Sporting KC’s side, they still played to a scoreless draw with the Galaxy in the first half. The Galaxy broke through in the opening minutes of the second half, though.
Galaxy superstar forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic found space in the box and headed the ball up in the 55th minute. As the ball popped in the air, SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia came off his line, and his defense stood mostly still around him. Favio Álvarez got under it and had a relatively easy header waiting on him. Los Angeles went up 1-0 on that goal, and it was all it would have needed.
Icing on the cake came half-an-hour later, when Ibrahimovic scored on his own. Uriel Antuna sprinted down the left flank and sent a cross into Ibrahimovic, who was waiting on top of the box. He took a second to chest it down and fired his shot just inside the post, past Melia to make the score line 2-0 in the 86th minute.
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“I don’t think it’s a two-nil game,” Vermes said. “I think that we missed too many really, really good chances in the game. To me the fact that we didn’t finish our chances put us at two-nil. We should have actually been winning at some point two-nil before they got to that point, and I think it would have changed the game.”
Even with the Galaxy striking first, Sporting KC wasn’t without its chances to equalize through the majority of the second half. In the 61st minute, Felipe Gutierrez sent a point-blank header over the crossbar. Johnny Russell fired wide of the post in the 76th minute, leading him to kick the sideline boards in frustration. In the 80th, Zusi fired up a set piece from just outside the box after a Galaxy handball, but his curler was cleared. And sub Daniel Salloi whistled a shot from distance just over the crossbar in the 81st.
“We missed the chances,” Vermes said. “We had wide-open looks. We had too many of them and we just never hit the target. It was almost too easy – we just couldn’t finish.”
In total, SKC fired 18 shots (four on target), compared to Los Angeles’ nine chances (five on goal).
The loss drops Sporting KC to 3-5-5 on the season, as it huddles near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Galaxy moves to 9-5-1.
“We have everything in front of us to play for,” Besler said. “It would be nice to be higher up in the standings, there’s no doubt about that. But in no way are guys holding their heads down and throwing things away. We still believe and we know there’s still a long season ahead of us and we have a lot to play for.”