Sporting Kansas City closed out the 2021 preseason with a 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy. A 33rd minute strike from Gianluca Busio made all the difference for Sporting KC.
Early in the match both sides traded chances. Luis Martins almost slid a shot (or cross) into the corner of the goal but LA’s keeper touched it over. Later 17-year-old Ozzie Cisneros had a chance when Busio sliced a ball across the box. Cisneros was hounded by Galaxy defenders who prevented him from a point-blank redirect shot attempt.
On the other end of the field, legendary Mexican striker Chicharito found himself alone in the box with the ball but put it off the crossbar to nullify LA’s best chance of the game.
Sporting KC’s number 10 put his team ahead when Khiry Shelton knocked the ball to Busio in traffic. The 18-year-old Homegrown attacker turned from one corner of the box and curled the ball into the far corner to claim the lead. It was an excellent goal created from a difficult spot for the young midfielder.
“In the midfield, I thought we were coming back for the ball a little too much,” Manager Peter Vermes told The Blue Testament postgame. “Once he started playing a little higher up the field, I thought we started to become more dangerous. It was a great shot and those are the types of things he can do.”
Gianluca, oh my GOODNESS! #SKCvLA | https://t.co/uBYZDXRiZq pic.twitter.com/yQoxTXZTGH— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) April 3, 2021
Sporting KC had the better of the play through the rest of the half but after the break the Galaxy made a wholesale change, and the fresh legs gave them a little advantage in the desert heat.
At halftime, Vermes only switched out Cisneros who was supposed to be in the second group until Daniel Salloi pulled a muscle pre-game and the newly arrived Nicolas Isimat-Mirin who received his first game minutes. Cameron Duke and Roberto Puncec came in the game at that point.
“It was a good experience for him (Isimat-Mirin) to be able to play against another MLS team,” Vermes explained. “At some point, he’s going to have to see that and he won’t be able to do that again until our first game of the season. On the ball, he’s very good. He also has a good mentality and I think it’s just going to be step by step for him. We pushed him a little bit to get 45 minutes today.”
While Cisneros was not supposed to start, he showed some good moments against a mostly MLS level squad. “He did fine and it was a really good experience for a guy like him. To be able to go into a game and play against an MLS team and compete at that level is great,” Vermes stated.
Around the 64th minute, SKC swapped the rest of the starters and brought in a mostly young group.
Overall, it seemed Vermes was not happy, but perhaps satisfied with the final preseason performance of both his groups. “Both teams were a little tired because the heat was massive today. We weren’t quite used to it so we were chasing shadows. We were trying to do what we wanted to do, but it was just a tough climate for our guys. With all of that being said, it’s great that some of the guys got used to what an MLS game is going to be like in the summer months. They got a good indication that you’ve got to be good on the ball and you’ve got to understand that the heat’s going to be a factor. You have to manage that and I thought it was good for the guys to do that today.”
Several players that could be starters were absent. Alan Pulido was been battling an injury that kept him from playing time while he was called up with Mexico and as mentioned earlier, Salloi was scheduled to start but went out prior to the game.
“We need to get some type of match fitness, and I’m talking about Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda, Graham Zusi, Daniel Salloi.,” Vermes explained. “All of those guys weren’t available to play today, so we’re trying to get them fit. That’s going to be an important aspect. Johnny turned his ankle a few days back and we’re working through that at the moment. Kinda will be back in training next week. Zusi is back running. They’re all working towards it and it’s going to be step by step for those guys.”
SKC opens the season at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, April 17th before returning home to face Orlando City SC on Friday, April 23rd.
Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy
April 3, 2021 – Kino North Complex (Tucson, Arizona)
Sporting Kansas City 1, LA Galaxy 0
SKC – Gianluca Busio (Khiry Shelton) 33’
Sporting Kansas City Lineup
Tim Melia (John Pulskamp 64’); Jaylin Lindsey (Kayden Pierre 64’), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (Roberto Puncec 46’), Andreu Fontas (Kaveh Rad 64’), Luis Martins (Travian Sousa 64’); Ilie Sanchez (Felipe Hernandez 64’), Gianluca Busio (Roger Espinoza 64’), Remi Walter (Amadou Dia 64’); Khiry Shelton (Grayson Barber 64’), Wilson Harris (Tyler Freeman 64’), Ozzie Cisneros (Cam Duke 46’)