L.A. Galaxy Forward Landon Donovan
Photo courtesy of ISIPhotos.com
Date: Monday, September 5, 2011
Game Time: 5 p.m. (CT)
Location: Livestrong Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas
TV Channel: Fox Soccer Channel
The fact that the Fox Soccer Channel is showcasing the upcoming Sporting Kansas City/ LA Galaxy clash at Livestrong Sporting Park this coming Monday tells you everything you need to know on just how important, and hopefully entertaining, of a match it will be. The two clubs have been two of the hottest for awhile now, with LA more or less being in the driver's seat of the entire league for most of the season. Simply put, the Galaxy have been the best team in MLS. Not that it's a surprise; the squad does feature some of the best players in the league, with the addition of former Tottenham Hot Spur Forward Robbie Keane* only adding fuel to the Galaxy's fire.
*Keane won't actually be playing in Monday's match as he's been called up to the Ireland national team
The game should prove to be a huge challenge for Sporting Kansas City, and a game that they badly need to get a result as they are currently clinging on to a 1 point advantage for second place in the Eastern Conference. It's also a must win for them in their efforts to keep up with the Columbus Crew, who currently lead the East with 40 points (SKC sits at 36).
Kansas City currently find themselves at a bit of a crossroads; 3-2 in their last five games after that amazing streak of 14 matches without a loss. That was before a gutwrenching 2-1 loss to Seattle on August 6th, and a 3-2 loss after FC Dallas made a furious last minute comeback to defeat Sporting Kansas City just a week ago.
Kansas City missed a huge break, as many thought Galaxy star Landon Donovan would be missing the match due to international duty, but it has now been confirmed that he will in fact be playing this Monday. Donovan has had another MVP type season again this year, tallying 11 goals (2nd in MLS behind Thierry Henry) and 3 assists over the course of the season. Forward Chad Barrett and midfielder Juninho are the second leading goal scorers on the Galaxy squad at 4 goals apiece. The discrepancy in goals should tell you everything you need to know on just how much of a force Donovan is, and that shutting him down should be Sporting Kansas City's number one priority if they want to have a chance to win the match. We all saw what happened when Sporting Kansas City gave too much space to FC Dallas forward Brek Shea last week. The guy ripped Kansas City to shreds late in the came with killer crossing in the waning minutes of the match. Sporting can't afford to have the mental lapses that plagued them late in the match against Dallas.
Priority number two should be shutting down Galaxy midfielder David Beckham. Beckham is enjoying his most productive MLS season to date, recording 11 assists (a league best), and 2 goals. Beckham may be 36 years old, but his age doesn't seem to be affecting his pin point passing, as he's still considered one of the most creative passers, and most dangerous set piece takers in the league.
Shut down Donovan and Beckham. I understand this isn't anywhere near groundbreaking analysis, but these are the two major catalysts in the Galaxy attack, and if Sporting Kansas City can contain them Kansas City probably wins the match. It's as simple as that. Sporting Kansas City did a very good job of containing Shea during most of the match against FC Dallas. It was only in the final minutes, when the mental lapses (or fatigue) set in that Shea was able to do what he's been doing to teams all season long.
Another problem plaguing Sporting lately has been the abundance of red cards given to the squad in recent matches. Roger Espinoza was sent off during the August 3rd match against Real Salt Lake (SKC held on for 2-0 win). Omar Bravo was red carded in the August 6th loss to Seattle. And most recently Teal Bunbury was sent off during the FC Dallas match last week. These red cards are killing the squad, and simply can't keep taking place if Sporting want to secure a playoff spot. Some might question the validity of the Bunbury red card, seeing as it was a rather questionable call, but Bunbury probably shouldn't have even taken a chance on attempting the slide tackle that sent him off , seeing as he had already been given a yellow.
The red cards are probably what cost Sporting both the Seattle and FC Dallas matches. It forced Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes to play his squad in an almost complete defensive mode, which allowed both Seattle and Dallas to bombard Sporting late with a full offensive attack, as they knew there wasn't much of a chance of a counter attack from SKC being a man down. Sporting thrives on pushing the pace, and relentless attacking on the offensive end. If Sporting Kansas City is a man down it takes their ability to do these things away, and well... we've seen what happens.
Sporting Kansas City are an extremely talented squad, but it appears they do have a problem finishing matches, and the Galaxy are probably the last team they would want to see when they are trying to figure out how to fix the mental lapses that have plagued them recently. The lack of Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury (both called up to their respective national teams) is going to make this match that much tougher for the home side. Kamara has been a force as of late (his goal total is now up to 8 this season), and losing him to international duty is a big blow. Losing Bunbury won't hurt as much as Kamara, as Teal has been widely erratic this season. Having said that, he's still an offensive threat that has to be accounted for, and combined with Kei's absence it will probably be up to someone along the likes of Graham Zusi, or CJ Sapong to come through on the offensive side of things against L.A.