Sporting Kansas City (0-1-2, 2 points) battled the LA Galaxy (0-1-1, 1 point) to a 0-0 draw on Saturday in the club’s 2023 home opener at Children’s Mercy Park.
The hosts were dominant from wire to wire in cold and wet playing conditions, outshooting LA 30-8 and pushing their shutout streak to 264 minutes—the second-longest active streak in MLS. Goals were elusive on both sides, however, and the 69th regular season meeting between the MLS charter members produced just the fourth goalless tie in the series.
Manager Peter Vermes made two lineup changes from Sporting’s road draw against the Colorado Rapids last weekend. German left back Tim Leibold earned his first MLS start and Children’s Mercy Park debut as Ben Sweat dropped to the bench, while forward Khiry Shelton replaced Marinos Tzionis on the right side of the attack.
Shelton was on the receiving end of Sporting’s first opportunity inside three minutes, steering his header over the crossbar after Salloi clipped in a cross from the left edge of the box. It was the first of 17 first-half shot attempts for the hosts, who held a decisive edge in the run of play throughout the night.
Buoyed by a sold-out crowd of raucous home supporters, Sporting remained on the front foot early by unleashing a deluge of shots that prompted saves from Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. LA weathered the early storm, however, and manufactured a decent look of their own near the 10-minute mark when Memo Rodriguez saw his low drive cast aside by Sporting keeper John Pulskamp.
Sporting midfielder Erik Thommy entered the weekend ranking second in MLS in shots on target and forced Bond into a smart near-post save in the 28th minute, squaring up his defender and firing low with his left foot from a tight angle. Thommy then turned provider five minutes later, swinging in a corner kick for Roger Espinoza, but his headed attempt was corralled by Bond.
Misfortune continued to plague the home side closer to halftime, with Thommy dragging a breakaway shot wide in the 43rd minute and Bond diving at full extension to palm away Remi Walter’s 28-yard sledgehammer shortly thereafter.
Pulskamp enjoyed a stress-free first half but spared Sporting’s blushes nine minutes into the second period. A sustained spell of Galaxy possession sprung Efrain Alvarez free on the right side of the penalty area, but Pulskamp advanced off his line to smother the shot and Leibold performed a vital clearance on the rebound to extinguish the danger.
Shelton and Sporting striker Willy Agada then combined on the hour mark, the latter receiving a pass near the top of the box and pirouetting before curling a shot over the bar. The Galaxy survived another scare seconds later as neither Shelton nor Agada could pull the trigger in a crowded penalty area prior to Thommy having his off-balance effort saved.
Salloi was next to test the Galaxy gloveman in the 66th minute, sparking a counter attack by charging into the attacking half and striking a long-range dipper that lacked the direction to beat Bond. The play came a short moment before Serbian midfielder Nemanja Radoja, a longtime veteran of the Spanish La Liga, replaced Espinoza for his MLS and Sporting debut.
Another Sporting substitute made his presence felt in the 72nd minute as Leibold galloped forward at full speed and laid the ball off to Tzionis, who took a settling touch before pinging a shot wide of the near post.
Sporting would ask further questions of the Galaxy defense in the dying embers of the contest, but LA held out for a sharing of the spoils.
Vermes’ men hit the road next Saturday for a road test against FC Dallas (1-1-1, 4 points) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The Western Conference clash is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT and will stream for free on Apple TV.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 3
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 39 degrees and moist
Sporting Kansas City (0-1-2, 2 points)
LA Galaxy (0-1-1, 1 point)
Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp; Graham Zusi, Robert Voloder, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold (Ben Sweat 77'); Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza (Nemanja Radoja 67'), Erik Thommy (C); Khiry Shelton (Marinos Tzionis 63'), Willy Agada, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Robert Castellanos, Kayden Pierre, Chris Rindov, Cam Duke, Felipe Hernandez
LA Galaxy: Jonathan Bond; Kelvin Leerdam (Chris Mavinga 67'), Martin Caceres, Jalen Neal, Raheem Edwards (Uri Rosell 90+2'); Riqui Puig, Gaston Brugman (C), Mark Delgado; Memo Rodriguez (Daniel Aguirre 81'), Dejan Joveljic (Preston Judd 67'), Efrain Alvarez (Tyler Boyd 67')
Subs Not Used: Jonathan Klinsmann, Eriq Zavaleta, Jonathan Perez, Adam Saldana
Shots on Goal
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referee: Ian Anderson
Assistant Referee: Jeremy Hanson
Fourth Official: Rosendo Mendoza
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic
AVAR: TJ Zablocki