LAFC vs Sporting KC: Preview
By: Benjamin Virgen
It’s finally here. Season 2.
After a 6-week preseason training camp, LAFC will make their season debut on Sunday March 3rd when they host Sporting KC at Banc of California Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 PM and will be nationally televised on ESPN.
As opposed to last season, the first game will be at home in front of the 3252 and their unconditional support. The energy they bring to every game at the Banc is something they hope to transmit to the players on the pitch. Winning at home and getting results is something LAFC took great advantage of in 2018 where they only lost once during the regular season. Who did they lose to? Their next opponent: Sporting KC. However, it was not your ordinary MLS game as LAFC made several rotations in their starting lineup for that match due to having played the Open Cup semifinals in Houston just a couple of days earlier. This time around, the tables have turned.
Sporting KC just played their CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 match yesterday in Toluca, Mexico where they advanced to the quarterfinal stage after beating Toluca 5-0 on aggregate. The next round is set to begin on Wednesday in Panama when they face Independiente. In essence, Sporting KC would be playing three games in three different countries in just 7 days. Not the friendliest of schedules considering the high demand all these games contain. Whether head coach Peter Vermes will rotate his players to give some if his starters a bit of a break remains to be seen. Regardless of the lineup Sporting KC throws out there on Sunday, LAFC will be ready with a game plan.
By bringing the core of the roster back from last season, LAFC is not so much about building a foundation on the field but more about establishing it. The players know how Bob Bradley wants his team to play and it’s just a matter of executing his football ideas on the pitch.
Based on the most recent preseason matches, the starting XI is set. I asked about Bob on whether he had his lineup all figured out for Sunday and he answered, “I think we are close. There is always a couple of things that you think throughout the end but the way preseason has played out, I think we have a pretty good idea”.
Tyler Miller will be at goal with the backline of Beitashour, Segura, Zimmerman and Harvey in front of him. The midfield will consist of Atuesta as the holding midfielder with Kaye and Nguyen in front with more of the box-to-box roles.
Now that we know Vela’s injury vs Vancouver was only a scare, he will lead the attack next to Rossi and most likely Ramirez. Diomande has not been able to log in a full half in the preseason and is struggling to get into game form. However, according to Bradley, he has been it taking it slow with Dio due to the abdominal hernia surgery he underwent during the offseason but has ramped it up during the last 10 days in training and looks good. Ramirez has been more consistent with his playing time as of late and seems to be the appropriate choice for the time being. When asked about who would start on Sunday, Bradley answered, “Not sure, that is still something that needs to be discussed”.
Jordan Harvey also took the time to answer a question that I prepared specifically for him. In case you did not know, Harvey will be playing his 300th MLS career game on Sunday, a feat only 40 players have been able to accomplish in league history. “There’s a few grays [hairs] coming along”, the defender joked. “For a defender, we don’t get many accolades so I enjoy when I can reach some sort of milestone in my career. In the future, I can look back and tell my kids and family that I achieved 300 games. It is a good one for me, I’m really proud of it and it’s something I’ll definitely be aware of come game time.” When I asked him if he will reach the 400th game milestone, he said,” It would be nice”.
The MLS season is long but starting with three points against a direct opponent in the Western Conference in Week 1 can be very rewarding later down the line. Some will say that the result of the first game is not an indication of how the season will develop. For example, if LAFC win on Sunday, it does not mean that they will go on to win MLS Cup. If they lose to SKC, it also does not mean they will end up in last place of the Western Conference. Given the circumstances of how both teams enter the match, LAFC have a slight advantage because they play at home and Sporting KC will most likely be playing some of their reserves.
With their opponent clearly prioritizing the Champions League tournament, this is the best chance LAFC will get to finally beat SKC for the first time. Not only did Sporting KC end LAFC’s undefeated streak at the Banc, they bumped the Black & Gold down to 3rd place in the West on Decision Day last season with a 2-1 win. This is a perfect opportunity for LAFC to make a statement, to let MLS know they are for real and that they will compete for MLS Cup.
Enough speculation. The Banc is ready, the city is ready and most importantly, the fans are ready. Will LAFC come out ready in their sophomore season and prove to MLS that they are here to stay? The expectations are set and it is up to Bob Bradley and his players to meet them.
Follow me on Twitter @lafcbenjamin to talk LAFC, ask questions or send comments. Thank you for reading and Stay Golden!