All posts by avaraceli

Breaking Records, Making History: LAFC Continues Its Reign But How Long Will It Last?

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club starts off the second half of the season on the right foot but can they keep it up?

Prior to dominating in 3-1 victory in Houston over the weekend; the black-and-gold was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals this past Wednesday.

It would have been nice to see the club win the U.S. Open Cup championship that they were so close to claiming last season, but now LAFC will continue their run for the 2019 MLS Cup.

But first, let’s analyze the first part of the season and what I think LAFC could improve moving forward:

League Dominance

LAFC is currently sitting atop of the Western Conference standings with 46 points and has made the Banc a fortress with a 8-0-1 home record. They also have a solid road record of 6-2-3 and are leading the Supporters Shield race.

Below them is tight race in the standings with the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and Minnesota United slowly climbing up all within a point of a each other.

After falling to the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road in April for their first loss of the season, the Los Angeles Football Club exacted revenge in a historic 6-1 blowout at the Banc of California stadium on July 6.

It was a statistics dominated match – LAFC has collectively scored 11 goals between both matches – making them the quickest team in MLS history to reach 100 points in the post-shootout era.

Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi continue to be a pain in everyone’s side having collectively scored 30 goals between them. While his teammate ranks first in both categories, Rossi comes in fifth for (66) shots and second for (32) shots on goal.

According to MLS’ playoffs tracker, if the playoffs started tomorrow, LAFC would earn a bye week as the top seed team. And would play the winner of the Minnesota United vs. the San Jose Earthquakes match in the western conference semifinals.

But considering Decision Day is October 6 with playoffs beginning on October 16 – the club still has some work to do to ensure that future is a possibility.

Roster Rotations

Another game. Another slightly heavy rotation.

Head Coach, Bob Bradley, has stressed multiple times that the current schedule is ‘ridiculous,’ and I agree.

True to his word. Bradley sat out Carlos Vela for the first time this season, giving Steven Beitashour the captain’s armband on Friday. Jordan Harvey, Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, and Christian Ramirez joined Pablo Sisniega on the bench.

The match saw Tyler Miller back in goal and Peter-Lee Vassell earn the start in Houston, upon return from international duty.

This move isn’t unusual, as for the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the head coach opted to rest a few starters. And started Dejan Jakovic, Mohammed El-Munir, Adama Diomande (who appeared in the 18 for Kansas City), and Lee Nguyen – moving Tristian Blackmon back into the left wing.

In addition to losing Andre Horta earlier this season, LAFC announced on Monday that defender Niko Hämäläinen has returned to English side Queens Park Rangers following the conclusion of his six-month loan with LAFC.

The Battle of the Keepers

Pablo Sisniega has impressed us in the absence of Tyler Miller. The 24-year-old keeper stepped right in and created a 4-2-0 record in just one month.

Miller has racked up a 12-1-4 record with LAFC in 2019, thus far. As well, recording six clean sheets and allowing just 14 goals along the way. But with Miller going away to serve as the third-string keeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team for the duration of the Gold Cup – he returned to LAFC a bit shaky. However, I believe he can regain his rhythm in time.

Additionally, Philip Ejimadu has been doing well while on loan to USL side, FC Tucson – recording 31 saves, 15 clearances, and three clean sheets.

It seems we finally a strong keeper roster this season.

Carlos Vela leading the league

20 games. 19 goals.

Just give Carlos Vela the Golden Boot already!

The Mexican captain is leading the league in (19) goals, (12) assists, (99) shots, (41) shots on goal and is first in the Audi Player Index ratings with 874 points.

Last week, he was nominated as Player of the Week for the third time this season, along with Team of the Week honors.

Vela has played in every competitive match for LAFC this season, going the full 90 in all, except for two of the Black and Gold’s outings, being replaced with 11 minutes to play in April’s 4-0 victory over D.C. United – putting a target on the captain’s back.

During the Timbers match, the captain was seen limping multiple times – having left the pitch entirely at one point. And even though he sat out his first match in Houston, Vela was seen coaching his teammates from the sidelines during the second half.

Biggest concerns moving forward

Even though LAFC seems unstoppable at this point, I have still a few concerns for the team.

First. Let’s talk schedule.

Last week we saw LAFC do a quick turnaround within 48 hours and SB Nation’s Angels on Parade addressed this issue head on. And quite frankly, I agree with their stance. Given the club was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, for the league to allow them to travel to Houston the very next day is ridiculous.

Fitness is still my biggest concern for the team.

Although LAFC has been pretty lucky from crowding up the injury list there are currently three players on the report: Alejandro Guido and Danilo Silva are questionable, while Javier Perez remains out with an ACL Tear.

Scheduling and roster rotation aside, I realize there is always room for error in a match but LAFC continues to make little mistakes from time-to-time.

From Sisniega’s communication error to Harvey’s mistake against Portland, LAFC has gotten lucky in both cases. But if not addressed properly, it can have a ripple effect. Fortunately, LAFC has been great in regaining form during the second half.

What’s next?

After enduring a packed month of international soccer action and a rigorous 48 turnaround, the MLS schedule gets slightly easier for the club until August.

This week, LAFC is back on the road to face the LA Galaxy who are just a striking hour away (two hours if you consider LA traffic) at the Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday, July 19.

Featured Image: LAFC

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Sporting KC turning things around following 3-0 shutout in Vancouver

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering a tough first half of the season, Sporting Kansas City is finally turning things around in back-to-back shutouts.

It seems the only thing the club will have to claim at customs (as they return home) is three points they earned in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road Saturday night at BC Place.

Gerso Fernandes helped lift Sporting KC to their second straight win by playing a part in all three goals, having scored two of them himself.

For the first time this season, Peter Vermes fielded the same starting XI he used in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire last weekend; giving the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath, and Seth Sinovic their fourth clean sheet in five regular-season matches as a defensive unit.

Tim Melia returned to peak performance after recording six saves to earn his 58th win this season – surpassing the record of Jimmy Nielsen and becoming the new all-time leader in wins since joining the club in 2015.

Controlling over 60% possession throughout the match, Sporting KC pressured Vancouver’s defense before finding the opening goal in the 24th minute.

With Sporting KC in search of a second goal and Vancouver looking to level the match, both sides created chances just before the half. The visitors came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet’s volley was re-directed by Salloi and went straight to MacMath at close range.

Melia came up huge to turn away Inbeom Hwang’s free kick in the 48th minute. Moments later, 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair‘s shot misses narrowly wide of the post.

Sporting KC kicked it into high gear after the restart. Felipe Gutierrez wasted no time and immediately doubled the lead with a strike from the top of the box; sneaking it in past MacMath in the 56th minute.

The boys continued the fight to close out the game on a good note, something they had struggled with all season-long. The Whitecaps came close to pulling one back in the 76th minute. But Yordy Reyna’s free-kick ricocheted off the post. Sporting KC went on to threaten for a third goal for the duration of the second half; forcing MacMath to make double saves.

Sporting KC subbed in Johnny Russell for the final moments of the match. And right away, the Scottish forward linked up with his Hungarian teammate, playing the ball to Krisztian Nemeth, who cut it back to Fernandes and he squeezes it through for the game-winner – securing all three points.

With two straight wins and only four players on a once injury-riddled roster, Sporting KC sets their sights on getting back above the line for playoffs.

During the post-match interviews, Melia explained:

“Baby steps, right? We’re just trying to build into our better performances. Getting guys back – being able to bring [Johnny Russell] off the bench, someone who is as explosive as him. I mean, right now things are moving in the right direction.”

Sitting in ninth place with 25 points in a tight race in the Western Conference standings, the club will host FC Dallas who sits just above the line with a four-point difference on Saturday, July 20.

Featured image: @SportingKC

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LAFC dominates in 5-1 win over Sporting Kansas City

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After a stunning road loss in Colorado, the Los Angeles Football Club bounced back in a big fashion with a 5-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park in a midweek matchup on Wednesday night.

After falling to Sporting KC twice last season and reclaiming revenge in a 2-1 season opener win in March – the match saw the return of Mark-Anthony Kaye following Canada’s elimination from the 2019 Gold Cup. And Bob Bradley wasted no time in putting him back in his usual midfield position.

Kaye almost earned the black-and-gold the early lead off a header from a Carlos Vela free kick in the ninth minute, but his attempt went straight to Tim Melia and eventually cleared out.

Stricken with an injured roster once again, Sporting KC dominated possession and kept Pablo Sisniega alert early in the match. However, most strikes from Gerso were deflected from Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour before reaching thenblack-and-gold’s net.

In the 28th minute, Christian Ramirez set the tone for the match after he drew blood first with a cheeky move off a set piece. The 28-year-old opted to send the ball underneath the wall, flying under the feet of Ilie Sanchez and Nicolas Hasler straight into the back of the net.

The trio (Gerso Fernandes, Felipe Gutierrez, and Krisztián Németh) were close to finding the response by developing a sequence of passes to get in the penalty box but had trouble connecting – ultimately sending the game into halftime trailing by one.

Moments after the restart, Diego Rossi doubles the score by sending a rocket past Melia into the right post.

Beware of the left foot. In the 63rd minute, Vela scored his 17th-MLS career goal so seamlessly with his signature left-footed curler.

Pablo Sisniega continues to be a standout with an incredible performance recording five saves. In true Miller-esque form, the 23-year-old keeper commanded the goal to thwart SKC’s efforts, including making a double-save within seconds of each other in the 71st minute.

With LAFC leading 3-0 – Sporting KC caught a break as Beitashour was called for a controversial handball in the 78th minute; after the ball ricocheted off his leg up to his hand on a sliding tackle – awarding the host a penalty kick. Daniel Salloi stepped up to convert. But Sisniega saved it from the Hungarian keeping a clean sheet.

In the 85th minute, Yohan Croizet pulls one back for Sporting KC in an attempt to spark hope back into the team. But it wouldn’t last long.

Just four minutes later, the Mexican captain gave Fito Zelaya the best birthday gift as he sends him a pass inside the penalty area to slide home, earning his first goal of the season.

Mohammad El-Munir finished a perfect night as he scored his first MLS-career goal during stoppage time – securing all three points for the black-and-gold.

Now sitting atop of the Western Conference standings with a nice cushion of 40 points – LAFC continues a congested schedule with a quick turnaround to host the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend.

Featured Image: Peaty Romano

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Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman talk Gold Cup journey, LAFC

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

In front of 17,307 energetic fans, the U.S. Men’s National Team won the group stage in a grueling 1-0 win over Panama; claiming all nine points ahead of the quarterfinals. And among the skillful roster are LAFC’s Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman.

Before the team heads to the east coast to face Curaçao in this Sunday’s matchup in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to catch up with LAFC’s favorite duo in Kansas City to discuss their experiences with the senior team this tournament thus far and reflect on the club’s strong start to the season.

Prior to the start of the USMNT’s Gold Cup run, Zimmerman – a longtime veteran of the senior squad – appeared as a halftime substitution during the friendly against Venezuela and has made back-to-back appearances for Gold Cup play.

Zimmerman: “It’s been great. I mean anytime you get called into the national team, it’s an honor. But even more so, I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be content. Get some games, get some starts, get some good performances – to try to build that momentum. [..] So it’s been great to be a part of these first two games. And get two wins.”

Tyler Miller earned his first call-up to the senior team earlier this year for January’s senior camp. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut to the game day roster and returned to LAFC for preseason.

Six months later, the 26-year-old keeper would get another opportunity as he was called up for the USMNT’s friendlies. Even though he appeared on the bench for both matches, Miller ultimately made the final Gold Cup roster, “[It’s] a dream come true to be a part of this team.”

Following Wednesday’s win, Miller is the only player on the roster yet to have made an appearance.

While the duo has been on the road, back in Los Angeles – LAFC has continued to defend the Banc for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals last week in a thrilling 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Miller and Zimmerman are excited about their club team: “I’ve had some late nights, where I watch some games of theirs. [I’m] looking forward to rooting them on from afar,” Zimmerman expressed.

Zimmerman went on to explain LAFC’s overall group mentality is greatly improved compared to last season:

“It’s a groundwork that we’ve put in place since the beginning of last year with how we want to be, our mentality. That’s one of the biggest differences from last year to this year, is the mentality of the whole group. To realize we’re a special group of players. We have a great locker room. And a very talented team.”

Miller added, “It’s always a challenge when you’re called into international duty for the guys to step up that haven’t really been getting a lot of minutes. I think the team has done well in the first two open cup games and that’s going to help propel them into the next three MLS games where we might have some guys still missing. I think this is a huge opportunity for guys to really get some valuable minutes because you never know. I mean the MLS season is very long and injuries happen. And everyone has to be ready.”

One of those players who has been earning some “valuable minutes” is Pablo Sisneiga, who has stepped up in Miller’s absence. And Tyler was thrilled for the young Mexican keeper:

“Pablo has done great. I’ve always got confidence in Pablo. I think he’s really performed well and has made some key saves for our team, especially with the RSL game. This last game we had too. I’m really happy for him because I know how hard he works. He’s a good kid and I’m glad to see him doing well.”

As the pair gear up to head to the east coast with the USMNT – the black-and-gold will kick off a packed schedule in Colorado on Friday.

Featured Image: Peaty Romano

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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San Sisniega: LAFC advances to U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals in 3-1 Win over San Jose Earthquakes

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club returns to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals after knocking out the San Jose Earthquakes in a 3-1 victory at the Banc of California stadium on Thursday night.

Why change what’s not broken? Head Coach Bob Bradley fielded the same lineup as last week with only one change – that being Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez switching places in the starting XI. But it was a move that would greatly benefit the team during the second half.

With Tyler Miller away on international duty, Pablo Sisniega made eight saves, including a key stop on a close-range shot in the 63rd minute to keep San Jose out. The keeper earned his second-straight start and put his Olympian lineage on full display with another stellar performance for his first appearance at the Banc.

The match kicked off to a rocky start for the black-and-gold as the Quakes outran Jordan Harvey to break through the defense and find a solo Vako who beat Danilo Silva for the early lead for the visitors in the 7th minute.

LAFC continued to struggle to break down the Quakes giving Cristian Espinoza the chance to run the ball down clear to the opposite end of the field to find Chris Wondolowski at the box – Wondo sent the strike off the cross into the net. But the goal was ruled offside.

Trailing by one, the black-and-gold rushed to find the equalizer. Lee Nguyen played the ball ahead to Diego Rossi, who slipped in behind Andrew Tarbell for a cheeky finish – leveling the match in the 35th minute.

LAFC was quick to knock on San Jose’s door after the restart keeping Tarbell alert as they searched for the third goal of the night. From Latif Blessing‘s chance hitting the crossbar to Vela’s shot going wide – the club produced several chances but still had trouble converting.

Just as the ref put Diomande’s number on the board to sub him out for Ramirez, the striker took Rossi’s through ball, got past Tarbell and doubled the score with a perfect strike on an open net in the 60th minute.

The Mexican captain tried to connect with Ramirez just inside the penalty area. But the ball deflected off San Jose’s player to miss the forward by inches.

San Jose proved they are a different team this year as the match intensified with Espinoza and Wondolowski attacking the goal. However, Sisniega, the Mexico City native, came up huge to deny the Quakes twice.

Rossi sent in a screamer in the 84th minute but it deflected just off the inside of the crossbar. But within seconds, LAFC would find themselves back on San Jose’s doorstep after a Marcos Lopez free-kick went back to the black-and-gold.

Eduard Atuesta worked the ball in the midfield and passed it to Tristian Blackmon through traffic. Blackmon ran it down the center connecting with Vela, who cut around San Jose’s defense and slid it home past Tarbell in the 85th minute; securing the 3-1 victory for the black-and-gold.

The club will host the Portland Timbers in the next round on July 10. But first. LAFC returns to MLS action in a two-game road trip next week as they travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face the Colorado Rapids. And then east to face Sporting Kansas City five days later.

Featured Image: LAFC

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LAFC Weekly Roundup: USOC Round Of 16, Loans, Horta Leaves, Gold Cup Update, Gold Links

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Survive and advance

LAFC gets revenge once again at Rio Tinto Stadium as they knocked out Real Salt Lake of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in a 3-0 win advancing to next round. Carlos Vela, Lee Nguyen, and Adama Diomande scored all three goals of the night.

While four players: Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman, Peter-Lee Vassell, and Mark-Anthony Kaye; were away for international duty, the match saw Pablo Sisniega and Rodolfo “Fito” Zelaya make their club debuts helping LAFC stamp their ticket to the next round.

Full match recap here.

Next up. The black-and-gold will host the San Jose Earthquakes in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup at the Banc of California Stadium on Thursday, June 20.

Batista and Jaković loaned out

Last week, LAFC loaned defender Lamar Batista to USL side, FC Tucson. This will be the 21-year-old’s second loan this year, as he appeared in two matches with Phoenix Rising during a brief loan stint.

Additionally, the club loaned defender Dejan Jaković to USL side, Las Vegas Lights FC. The Canadian, who appeared in 15 matches during the inaugural season, has yet to see any playing time this year.

Per the Right of Recall incorporated in the loan agreement, LAFC retains the right to recall Batista and Jaković at any point during the MLS regular season.

Bye, Horta

On Monday, the club announced it had transferred André Horta to Portuguese side, SC Braga; opening up a DP position on the roster. Returning to the club where he started his career, Horta is set to rejoin his brother and play on the same team again.

Horta first joined the team during last year’s summer transfer window from SL Benfica, appearing in 15 regular season matches, making five starts.

Who do you think will replace him?

The Italian Job

We’re getting another player? Well, maybe not this time.

Late Monday night, a rumor began circulating that LAFC was close to reaching an agreement with Italian International defensive midfielder, Daniele De Rossi. But LA Times’ reporter Kevin Baxter was quick to shut down rumors. And LAFC’s digital manager Vince La Rosa also chimed in to back up his statement.

Player’s Salaries Released

The MLS Players’ Union released their annual list of salaries for all players in the league. Including LAFC, whose full amount, according to the list, was over $13,000,000 across the roster this year.

In an article by Angels on Parade, they broke down the full salary for each player and discussed which player they believe is still underpaid, stating:

“Tyler Miller looks like the obvious choice. He did get a raise compared to last season, but it was a raise of less than $10,000. He’s solidified his status as a starter. He’s on the USMNT roster for the Gold Cup. The guy shouldn’t have to pick up the check this season.”

And I agree.

Carlos Vela is the fourth-highest player in the league with a base salary of a cool $4,500,000 and guaranteed compensation of $6,300,000. The now-departed Horta came in at second, while Diego Rossi was the third millionaire on the team.

Miller and Zimmerman join Gold Cup Roster

Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman have officially been added to the United States Men’s National Team roster for the 2019 Gold Cup. The duo appeared on the bench for the USMNT’s pair of final friendlies as they hosted Jamaica and Venezuela.

With Zack Steffen in goal both times, Miller remained on the bench. However, during the friendly against Venezuela – Zimmerman started the second half as a substitute with the team down 3-0 for his third senior appearance. Walker immediately picked up a caution for a foul in the 48th minute, but it didn’t stop him from becoming more involved on the pitch.

The USMNT open their Gold Cup slate on Tuesday, June 18 against Guyana in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Gold Links

Featured Image: Erick Gonzales

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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A new rivarly begins: LAFC crashes party in Portland, 3-2

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club ignites new rivalry with a 3-2 win on the road against the Portland Timbers during the grand re-opening of renovated Providence Park.

Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Latif Blessing helped christen the newly renovated stadium before two of Timbers’ own added to the goal count. Around 750-1,000 traveling supporters made the trek to Portland to support LAFC.

And the Mexican captain didn’t disappoint as he got the early lead for the visitors in the 6th minute thanks to an error from Jeff Attinella – scoring his 16th MLS-career goal.

For a brief period of time, both teams kept slipping on the fresh new artificial turf but the black-and-gold used that to their advantage to stop Portland from finding the equalizer.

In the 20th minute, Eduard Atuesta – who has been a formidable player – was quick to block Diego Valeri in a crowded box; sending the ball to Blessing – who ran it down to the opposite end and was blocked.

Blessing would later find Tristian Blackmon from the sideline with a through ball. The Las Vegas native wasted little time to pass it to Rossi for his first assist – who then tucked it away in the right corner of the net to double the score in the 34th minute.

The Timbers immediately cut the lead in half off the rebound right after the restart. Miller saved the first attempt but then Cristhian Paredes opened up the home side’s goal account with the header.

Blessing, who has been dangerous in the midfield lately, was quick to answer Paredes by scoring the third and final goal of the night for LAFC in the 54th minute off a perfect run from Jordan Harvey.

In a six-minute stretch, Miller made two critical saves to deny both Brian Fernandez and Valeri to preserve the two-goal lead.

However, Miller’s efforts did not last long as Fernandez pulled one back in the 84th minute with a bicycle kick to up the score 3-2.

The drama spilled into stoppage time quickly as there were no signs of either team slowing down. Prior to the extra eight minutes given, Vela kept getting chopped down from behind. But alas, the Timbers received little to no punishment from referee Robert Sibiga. And second-half substitution Adama Diomande became the new subject of conversation during the dramatic final moments. He and Timbers’ Fernandez both received a caution following a brawl that broke out between the two.

With tensions high, the match ended in a 3-2 win keeping LAFC’s winning streak alive and cushioning their lead atop of the western conference even more with 37 points.

Before resuming regular MLS action, LAFC will travel to Rino Tinto Stadium to face Real Salt Lake on June 11 in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Photo credit: @LAFC

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Sporting KC drops midweek fixture to LA Galaxy 2-0

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Despite coming off a hot win over the Seattle Sounders this past weekend, Sporting Kansas City fell to the LA Galaxy in a dismal 2-0 loss at Children’s Mercy Park.

The midweek fixture was a chance to regain a rhythm and some points. But as the script goes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal and assist and missed chances for the home side would help lead the Galaxy to victory – the first time they have won at CMP since 2007.

Navigating a stressful three-game week, Peter Vermes was able to fill a bench to capacity for the first time as the injury list continues to shrink. And Jimmy Medranda was removed from the list completely.

A rested center back Andreu Fontas, a former teammate of Zlatan, stepped in for the captain – who started on the bench. Johnny Russell was back after his heroic hat-trick and Fontas returned to the starting XI.

Their only real challenge was missing Krisztian Nemeth again since the league added an extra suspension for the Hungarian on Monday.

So what went wrong?

“I think we missed too many really good chances in the game,” Peter Vermes told the press.

Both sides kicked off the match with sloppy plays, incomplete passes, and misdirection of the ball. Fortunately, the home side soon regained solid possession around the 10th minute.

Tim Melia was called into action in the 24th minute, when the keeper made a diving save after Dave Romney connected powerfully with Sebastian Lletget’s header and smothered the ball amidst a crowded box to keep the game scoreless.

Gutierrez and Rowe nearly combined for the breakthrough just before the half, but David Bingham raced off his line and swiped the ball away for a corner kick that he later defended successfully.

Sporting were then prompted to make a halftime substitution as Besler replaced Botond Barath, who exited with tightness in his leg. No updates on his condition are known yet.

Ten minutes after the restart, Perry Kitchen sent a long pass to Zlatan at the far post, who directed the ball to Favio Alvarez – with the nice finish as he found a pocket of space and tucked away the goal.

Melia came up huge to deny Zlatan in a 1v1 situation in the 69th minute.

Zlatan, who just returned from a two-game suspension, got his revenge from the 1v1 standoff in the 86th minute and scored the game-winner for the visitors late into the second half.

The remainder of the match saw Sporting KC desperately trying to score a goal. Including a chance from the pair of Graham Zusi and Daniel Salloi. But Bingham kept punching them away to preserve the Galaxy’s 2-0 win.

Sporting KC will start a pivotal four-game road streak as they travel to Houston to face the Houston Dynamos on Saturday, June 1.

Featured image: Jimmy Medranda on Instagram @jimao7

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Johnny Russell’s historical hat trick helps Sporting KC break winless streak

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City finally snapped it’s seven-game winless streak in a thrilling 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday. Johnny Russell’s hat trick and Tim Melia’s cat-like reflexes sealed the deal.

Even though ten players remain on the injury list, with five totally out, the list is finally shrinking as Vermes nearly sat a full bench. Yohan Croizet started in Krisztian Nemeth’s place, who was out due to a red he picked up in the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend. And Jimmy Medranda made his triumphant return.

Sporting KC got off to a strong start, attacking the visitor’s side twice, but Stefan Frei was quick to deny both attempts.

Nicolas Hasler provided the spark the team needed for the opening goal by keeping the ball in play in the 29th minute. He slotted it through to Croizet who defeated the defender to find Russell. And Johnny smashed it home!

The team has clearly put a lot of trust in Kelyn Rowe as they helped place him into 1v1 situations. However, all attempts were either denied by Frei or flew over the bar.

Luckily, Russell completely dismantled the Sounders’ defense to double Sporting KC’s lead just before the half.

Shortly after the restart, Raul Ruidiaz pulled one back for the visitors putting the score up 2-1.

Croizet kept it away from the defender, passing it to Kelyn Rowe who sent a cross to Russell in the penalty area. Without hesitation, Russell flicked it into the back of the net, scoring the hat trick in the 68th minute. He is the second player in club history to score two hat tricks. And a bonus fact, his second hat trick came on the same day that Eddie Johnson scored his second hat trick for the club.

However, the celebrations were cut short. Seattle’s Kelvin Leerdam quickly answered Russell’s goal by putting in a header off of a set piece, going straight through SKC’s defense.

With the score now 3-2, Sporting KC went into full gear to protect the goal at any cost. Even seeing an injured captain, who kept grabbing his hamstring for a better part of the half, fight through the pain to help his team. Unfortunately, Besler would call it quits in the 79th minute because of fatigue. Graham Smith would take this place.

But his exit didn’t displace SKC as Melia went on to make a stunning double-save and was later called back into action to deny a Sounder from close range.

Jimmy Medranda, who entered to a standing ovation from the crowd; after spending nearly a year and a half out due to injury, wasted little time to fire a rocket shot at the goal, but it deflected off the post.

A last-minute attempt saw Frei step out to the half to assist his teammates. But it would fail as the ball flew wide of the goal – ending the match in a much needed 3-2 victory for Sporting KC.

Sporting KC will have a quick turnaround as they host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, May 29.

Featured image: @sportingkc

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LAFC extends home winning streak in 4-2 win over the Montreal Impact

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After splitting points with Dallas last weekend, the Los Angeles Football Club turned the early lead into an impressive 4-2 win over the Montreal Impact at the Banc of California Stadium on Friday night. With goals from four different players, LA enjoyed their first three-goal first-half lead since April 6th.

The roster was back at full strength with one slight change. Eduard Atuesta returned to the middle and Tristian Blackmon started at left back in place of Steven Beitashour – who is out due to injury.

LAFC did not waste any time, when Christian Ramirez forced an error on Evan Bush, getting the early lead in the 7th minute. Bush tried to clear the ball near the penalty spot, but Ramirez stepped right in front in time to deflect the ball into the back of an open net. It was Ramirez’s third goal of the season and his first in his last six matches.

The early goal would be the first of three goals in the opening half as it started a ripple effect. Carlos Vela carried a through ball from Atuesta toward the goal and slotted it past Bush for his 15th goal of the year – surpassing his 2018 record of 14 goals.

Then less than three minutes later, Vela found Diego Rossi on the left post, who reached Latif Blessing in front of the goal with the assist; Blessing backheeled the pass in for his first goal of the year.

Multiple early false alarms followed after the restart including an attempt from Ramirez and a potential goal from Vela that was later called offsides. Hungry for more goals, in the 55th minute, the Mexican captain connected with Blackmon on a corner kick; the right back’s header in front of the energized 3252 grew the lead to 4-0. It was Blackmon’s second start and first MLS career goal of the season.

However, after a thrilling start, it became clear LAFC was starting to get a little comfortable with the lead about midway into the latter part of the second half – giving the Impact the chance to force mistakes.

Eddie Segura was in the wrong place at the wrong time as Montreal’s Maximiliano Urruti pressured the home side with a shot from outside the box in the 70th minute. Initially, Tyler Miller saved the shot. But it deflected off the center back’s knee rolling into an open net – resulting in an own goal and putting the visitors on the board.

Fourteen minutes later, Walker Zimmerman received a caution for a tackle on Anthony Jackson-Hamel, and Villarreal awarded Montreal the penalty. And Saphir Taider stepped up and converted the penalty by inches – cutting LAFC’s lead in half.

The final chance fell to Diego Rossi in the 87th minute to put the icing on top. But his right-footed shot went wide of the post by a few inches. And finally, Tyler Miller‘s last-minute save to deny Hamel’s volley helped the team extend their winning streak in a 4-2 win.

Next up, LAFC will return on the road as they visit the Portland Timbers in their newly renovated stadium on Saturday, June 1.

Photo credit: @LAFC

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