Match Recap

Recap: Sporting KC suffers 4-2 loss on road at LA Galaxy

Sporting Kansas City suffered a sixth straight road loss on Saturday, falling by a 4-2 scoreline against the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park in southern California. Stephen Afrifa scored his first career MLS goal and Robert Castellanos scored in his first MLS match in his hometown during an offensive outburst in the second half that saw the two sides combine for five goals after halftime.

Missing five players - including Designated Player Daniel Salloi, whose two-year streak of 69 consecutive regular season appearances came to an end due to injury (ankle) — Sporting Kansas City had a pair of chances to open the scoring on Saturday after Tim Melia made his first of a season-high six saves with a kick save in the 17th minute to deny Jonathan Perez.

Memo Rodriguez, who played for the Galaxy in 2023, forced John McCarthy into action in the 21st minute with a well-taken shot from distance then, four minutes later, Alenis Vargas’ header was narrowly wide of the post on a cross from club captain Johnny Russell.

Instead it was the hosts that struck first with five minutes remaining in the first half. Melia produced two superb saves to thwart Gabriel Pec and Dejan Joveljic however Joveljic found the back of the net on the third try for the Serbian striker’s team-leading 10th goal of the season.

Melia would make his fourth save of the half in the 43rd minute with a sprawling stop on an attempt from Pec and Sporting started the second half in promising fashion as Zorhan Bassong picked out the run of Alan Pulido with a pinpoint pass only for the subsequent first-time volley to carry high of the target.

In short succession, the Galaxy would double their advantage on the opposite end as Pec struck for his fifth goal of the season with a perfectly-placed finish inside the post. The Brazilian newcomer would add two assists later in the match, setting up second-half substitutes Joseph Paintsil and Miguel Berry.

After going down two goals, Manager Peter Vermes brought Willy Agada and Afrifa off the bench just after the hour mark in a pair of moves that paid off almost immediately. Agada broke behind the Galaxy backline in the 65th minute but couldn't connect cleanly on the half volley and moments later Afrifa cut the Galaxy lead in half less than 45 seconds after entering the match.

The 23-year-old Canadian, drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft out of Florida International University, had previously scored for Sporting in the U.S. Open Cup last month and continued to make his mark in his sophomore season with his first career MLS goal on Saturday as he sent a first-time shot into the back of the net on an assist from Erik Thommy.

Pressing forward in hopes of an equalizer, Sporting would concede the game-winning goal on a counter attack in the 75th minute as Miki Yamane sprung Pec with a sublime ball from his own half. Pec took one touch into the penalty area before squaring a pass for Paintsil to tap in at the top of the six-yard box to give the Galaxy a 3-1 lead.

The speedy Ghanaian nearly struck again five minutes later if not for an impressive sliding save from Melia in a 1v1 situation. Melia's counterpart then made a phenomenal stop of his own just moments later to prevent Agada from putting his name on the scoresheet.

Undeterred, Sporting Kansas City would secure a second goal on the night in the 82nd minute on a set piece delivered by Russell and volleyed home by Castellanos. Russell now has four goal contributions (three goals, one assist) in his last five MLS starts - including a goal or assist in each of the past three matches - while the goal carried extra significance for Castellanos, who grew up in nearby Palmdale, California and was making his first MLS appearance in the LA area with friends and familiy in attendance.

Trailing 3-2, Sporting Kansas City's best look at an equalizer came in the 88th minute as Bassong's entry ball into the penalty area found Agada just past the penalty mark. The 24-year-old Nigerian did well to turn and unleash a powerful shot amidst three LA Galaxy defenders however the effort whistled above the crossbar.

Melia made his sixth and final save in the 89th minute - diving low to his right as Paintsil sought a second goal on the night -- and the Galaxy would seal the victory with a stoppage-time tally in the 92nd minute through Berry with a simple finish on the feed from Pec.

Saturday's road trip kicked off a stretch of three games in eight days for Sporting Kansas City, who will return home to host first-place Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek, including the Sporting U Pass offering $15 Supporters' Stand tickets for college students, and all 13 mid-week MLS matches will be free to watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

2024 MLS Regular Season | Match 18
Dignity Health Sports Park | Carson, California
Attendance: 22,198
Weather: 72 degrees and sunny

Sporting Kansas City 2-4 LA Galaxy
Sporting Kansas City (3-10-5, 14 points)
LA Galaxy (8-3-7, 31 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Khiry Shelton, Robert Castellanos, Andreu Fontas, Zorhan Bassong; Nemanja Radoja, Memo Rodriguez (Stephen Afrifa 65'), Erik Thommy (Marinos Tzionis 82'); Johnny Russell (C), Alan Pulido (Willy Agada 61'), Alenis Vargas (Jake Davis 46')

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Tim Leibold, Kayden Pierre, Dany Rosero, Robert Voloder

LA Galaxy: John McCarthy; Miki Yamane, Jalen Neal, Maya Yoshida (C), Julian Aude; Edwin Cerrillo, Mark Delgado, Gabriel Pec (Tucker Lepley 90+4'), Diego Fagundez (Ruben Ramos Jr. 90+4'), Jonathan Perez (Mauricio Cuevas 46', Joseph Paintsil 65'); Dejan Joveljic (Miguel Berry 82')

Subs Not Used: John Nelson, Eriq Zavaleta, Martin Caceres Novak Micovic

Scoring Summary:
LA - Dejan Joveljic 10 (unassisted) 40'
LA - Gabriel Pec 5 (Dejan Joveljic 3, Miki Yamane 2) 54'
SKC - Stephen Afrifa 1 (Erik Thommy 2) 66'
LA - Joseph Paintsil 5 (Gabriel Pec 5, Miki Yamane 3) 75'
SKC - Robert Castellanos 1 (Johnny Russell 2) 82'
LA - Miguel Berry 2 (Gabriel Pec 6, Diego Fagundez 3) 90+2'

Misconduct Summary:
LA - Dejan Joveljic (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 44'
LA - Jalen Neal (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 49'
LA - Joseph Paintsil (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 68'
​​​​​​​SKC - Jake Davis (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+3'

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referee: Stefan Tanaka-Freundt
Assistant Referee: Eduardo Jeff
Fourth Official: Allen Chapman
VAR: Carol Anne Chenard
AVAR: Logan Brown