A Sporting start to July
With the calendar turning to July, LAFC has to be ready for the most intense month in their season. Six matches in four weeks are tough, but it will be harder because of the opponents they have to go against. Portland next week for the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup, Atlanta United at home to finish off the month, and a return of El Trafico in Carson. In the end though, it all starts tonight against Sporting Kansas City.
At the beginning of the season, I thought that Sporting KC was going to be a much better team. I figured LAFC would be battling all season long for the top spot in the West against KC, Portland, and Seattle. Somehow though, Sporting is all the way at the bottom of the Western Conference, even behind Colorado. The flaws within the team have been exposed time and time again this season.
While there are flaws on the backline of KC, they have been unfortunate due to the injury bug biting them. Hard. Johnny Russell, who is arguably the best player on the team, will out of this game due to a leg injury. Graham Zusi will also likely be out for this match due to an abductor strain. Sporting is also missing Roger Espinoza, a central midfielder. Unfortunate for him, as he tore his PCL, but Sporting KC has not been the same team since. He was a player that could run back to support the weaker defensive side, but also drive the ball forward in order to create space for anyone up top. Since his injury, Kansas City has been lost on all fronts of the ball.
LAFC has been very fortunate in that the injury bug has not taken out the team. There are only two main injuries, both Danilo Silva (left hamstring strain) and Javi Perez (left ACL tear) are both out for this game. Even though the team doesn’t have a lot of injuries, they are still missing players due to the Gold Cup. Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Miller, Peter-Lee Vassell, and Mark-Anthony Kaye will all miss this game and likely the game at the weekend against Vancouver.
With lineups, I would expect LAFC to roll out the same team tonight as they did last Friday in Denver. Hopefully, the men have had time to work together over the past few days in order to figure out how to break down the opposition. Benjamin Virgen wrote a great article about the midfielders and how they are feeding Carlos Vela, but you could see how Kaye was missing from that equation last week. (If you haven’t read it, go here! It’s well worth the three-minute read.) Hopefully, Lee Nguyen is feeling more confident in that role and the Black & Gold will be able to get some goals tonight.
LAFC has an issue of playing to their opponents. In a big game, they always come out sharp and have clean passing through the field. When they play a lesser team, they always look disjointed and have lackluster finishing. The Supporters Shield can’t be won in July, but the team really needs to make sure that it gets all the points available to them in order to build on the five-point they have.