Matchday 3 Preview: LA Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC vs. LA Galaxy

When: Saturday, March 11, 2023 at 7:30pm CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

Watch/Stream: Apple MLS Season Pass (subscription required)

Sporting Kansas City finally returns home on March 11 to host the LA Galaxy. Sporting are on point after a goalless tie against the Colorado Rapids last weekend. Sporting haven’t scored in two games and have looked out of place on offense. As the Shades of Blue guys discussed, Willy Agada and Daniel Salloi lack service and it shows.

The Galaxy has only played one game so far after inclement weather in Southern California forced LAFC and the Galaxy to postpone their week one El Traffico derby. LA started their season away at FC Dallas and were defeated 3-1. U-22 forward Dejan Joveljic scored the first goal of the game before Alan Velasco equalized and a second-half brace from Jesus Ferreira overtook the visitors.

Coach Greg Vanney is considered one of the better tacticians in the league, rotating his formations depending on the lineup he chooses and the score. Against FC Dallas, the Galaxy started in a 4-5-1 with Joveljic up front, Riqui Puig in central midfield and Raheem Edwards and Kelvin Leerdam at full-back. As LA pressed for goals, they switched to a 3-5-2 with Puig at the helm alongside Joveljic and new signing, US International, Tyler Boyd on the left wing. Designated player and “star” striker Chicharito is injured and likely to miss the game after being suspended for two to five weeks on March 1, 2023.

How will Vanney adapt? We’ll definitely see Joveljic back at the top, probably as a lone striker. I would expect LA to start again in 4-5-1 and overload the midfield with Puig’s passing ability to open the game for the wingers and Joveljic.

Against FC Dallas, LA controlled 55 percent possession and had more shots on target than Burn. LA’s xG was 1.6 to Dallas’ 1.7, but the Galaxy defense shut down and was blown to pieces by Ferreira’s clever runs.

Gamer Designated Riqui Puig is the engine that makes everything work for the Galaxy. It’s not often that a 23-year-old joins the MLS from Barcelona. Often compared to Andres Iniesta, Puig is known for his ability to break lines with his pass. However, he won’t play with the bite of a box-to-boxer like Roger Espinoza or a defensive midfielder like Diego Chara. The key to neutralizing the LA attack is for Sporting Kansas City’s midfield to knock Puig out of the game. Tailing him to complicate space and pressing him as soon as he gets the ball will prevent him from raising his head and selecting a pass to threaten Sporting KC’s defense.

Speaking of defence, Sporting conceded two goals in every clash between these sides last year. The first game was played at Children’s Mercy Park and Sporting took all three points after a 4-2 win. Tonight’s Sporting KC line-up could look very similar to Saturday’s line-up. Ben Sweat, Andreu Fontas, Graham Zusi and John Pulskamp anchored the defense. Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza and Erik Thommy patrolled midfield. Daniel Salloi, Willy Agada and Johnny Russell were the forwards. LA’s goals were scored by Chicharito, one from the run of play and another from the penalty spot.

In the second leg, Chicharito again scored twice, including another penalty. The line-up that night featured Kayden Pierre and Logan Ndenbe at full-back. Chicharito’s absence will clearly hurt LA’s attack, especially since his move last season was able to take advantage of poor communication between SKC’s back line.

The key for Sporting KC is figuring out how to become dangerous in attack. In two games, Sporting KC has a shot-based xG of 2.1 and a non-shot xG of 2.4. Peter Vermes must figure out how to engage Willy Agada in the attack and unlock Daniel Salloi. With those two having been quiet so far, the team have relied heavily on Erik Thommy to be a goal threat. Thommy has looked great to start the season so far, but not good enough to carry the team on his own.

In addition to Erik Thommy and Remi Walter in midfield, Vermes has to decide who will start in last place. Roger Espinoza has been called up for the first two games but new signing Nemanja Radoja could finally get a chance to play. If not, there’s a strong case for Felipe Hernandez to go ahead and use Roger as a backup for 20-30 minutes. However, as mentioned in Chad’s lineup predictions, it will most likely be Roger who starts.

Nemanja Radoja, if healthy and ready to play, could be the key to unleashing Sporting KC’s potential. We’ve documented the importance of a strong defensive midfielder to Vermes’ system, with front runner Ilie Sanchez really making SKC’s offense hum. Remi Walter started the season strong, but his best position is higher up in one of the duel 8s. Radoja’s ability to stop play and pass hopefully An elite level will be key to provide a good service to Willy Agada and allow SKC to play up front.

Continuing the newcomer theme, the LA center-back pairing features Chris Mavinga, who signed with LA as a free agent during the offseason. He and Martin Caceres, who joined last August, are tasked with keeping Willy Agada quiet for a third game in a row. Both Mavinga and Caceres were rated under 6 for their performances before Mavinga was replaced by another centre-back, Erik Zavaleta, in the 2nd half. LA have struggled on defense under Greg Vanney and this may be the match SKC is right about.

So what do you all think? Forecasts for the home start?

Continue reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *