"Five Things" is a season-long series presented by the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.
Second-place Sporting Kansas City at third-place LA Galaxy on the Fourth of July? Sign us up.
A titanic Western Conference showdown beckons Sunday as Manager Peter Vermes and Sporting (7-3-2, 23 points) visit head coach Greg Vanney and the LA Galaxy (7-3-0, 21 points) at 9:30 p.m. CT.
Supporters can catch all of the action from Dignity Health Sports Park on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
As two of the league’s best clubs prepare to lock horns, we visit five compelling storylines surrounding the matchup in the space below.
1. Table Toppers
Seattle Sounders FC lead the Supporters’ Shield race and sit atop the West with 25 points. Two points behind them? Sporting Kansas City. Two points behind Sporting? The Galaxy. Simply put, Sunday’s clash will feature two of the league’s elite teams from the first 10 weeks of the 2021 campaign.
Entering the month of July, four MLS clubs are tied for a league-best seven wins. Two of them will square off Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park. Sporting are 5-1-1 in their last seven games since mid-May, while the Galaxy approach the weekend with consecutive away wins under their belt.
2. Fireworks on the Fourth
Fireworks in the sky and fireworks on the field. Bet on it. Sporting lead MLS in most attacking metrics, including goals scored (22), goals per game (1.83) and expected goals (24.5) as well as chances created per game (12.2) and shots per game (17.2). Vermes’ men have scored in all but one match this season and have looked irresistible going forward in recent weeks.
On the opposite sideline, the Galaxy boast an MLS MVP frontrunner in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. The Mexican star floundered during his 2020 debut in MLS, scoring just twice in 12 appearances, but has exploded for 10 goals in the first 10 games of 2021. LA’s 17 goals rank fifth in the league, and Chicharito is a big reason why the Galaxy are flying.
3. Showtime Salloi
Forward Daniel Salloi has delivered one of the feel-good stories of the year, breaking out for seven goals and three assists through Sporting’s first dozen matches. That’s already more goals than the club’s top three scorers—Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell and Gadi Kinda—from a 2021 season that spanned 21 matches.
Salloi now ranks third in MLS in both goals (seven) and combined goals and assists (10). The Hungary-born winger has also displayed a clutch gene that has become impossible to ignore. In addition to leading MLS with four game-winning goals this year—the most by a Sporting player since Salloi bagged six in 2018—he is now tied for sixth in club history with 10 career match winners in the regular season.
4. Hollywood Turnaround
The Galaxy labored to 6-12-4 record in 2020 and missed the postseason by a wide margin. The 2021 campaign saw LA retool by appointing Vanney as head coach. The longtime Toronto FC boss has wasted no time turning the ship, with the Galaxy now displaying an innate ability to emerge victorious in close games. LA are 5-1 in games decided by a single goal this season and their 21 points are the club’s most through 10 regular season matches since 2010.
5. Party at the Pub
Looking for a place to party for the Fourth of July matchup? No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District is offering its best watch party specials of the season, offering fans over 21 a free beer or shot every time Sporting scores a goal on Sunday night. Furthermore, guests who bring five friends will receive a free game of bowling or golf.