Five Things, presented by Keith + Associates Dentistry, is a weekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights the top storylines, players to watch and matchday programming ahead of each game throughout the season.
An old-school Western Conference rivalry will be renewed Wednesday when Sporting Kansas City (3-4-5, 14 points) hosts the LA Galaxy (8-5-1, 25 points) at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com as two MLS originals lock horns lock horns for the 63rd time in the regular season.
FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT, while local radio broadcasts will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. Fans can also access the Sporting KC App for in-game updates and exclusive offers, including a digital coupon for free Powerade at any Price Chopper location in the Kansas City area.
With Manager Peter Vermes’ men hoping to end their three-game homestand on a high, let’s jump into five things you must know about the midweek matchup.
1. Home is Where the Heart Is
The unfortunate truth is this: following their battle with LA, Sporting won’t play another MLS home match until July 3. The club must navigate a daunting four-game road swing during the month of June, which further underscores the importance of Wednesday’s clash. Sporting remains in 11th place in the West, but three points against the Galaxy would invigorate the side going into a travel-heavy stretch of the schedule.
For the first time in almost two months, Sporting is riding the waves of positive momentum. MLS Player of the Week and MLS All-Star candidate Johnny Russell was at his scintillating best in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Seattle, bagging a hat-trick to help his team snap a seven-game MLS winless run. The result marked a continuation of Sporting’s free-scoring ways at Children’s Mercy Park, as the club leads MLS with 2.71 goals per home match.
2. Ruling the Galaxy
For all the success LA has enjoyed over the last decade—the Galaxy have won three MLS Cups since 2011—their travels to Kansas City have been less than prosperous. In fact, the Galaxy haven’t won in the City of Fountains since 2007, when the then-Wizards played their home games at Arrowhead Stadium. Sporting are unbeaten in 11 straight home fixtures against LA, going 5-0-6 overall and 4-0-4 in matches at Children’s Mercy Park.
Vermes’ side has dominated the series in recent years, owning a 4-0-4 record in the last eight regular season meetings. LA’s most recent win over Sporting came in April 2015 at StubHub Center. The 2018 season saw Sporting emerge with a win and a draw, prevailing 2-0 on the road and settling for a 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Park last October. Russell scored in both appearances against the Galaxy in 2018, executing a pair of stunning solo efforts that mirrored his superb second strike versus Seattle on Sunday.
3. Zlatan is Back
One of the sport’s biggest global superstars is returning to Kansas City. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored from the penalty spot in last year’s 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Park, ranks second in MLS with nine goals this season and—even at the age of 37—remains one of the league’s most dominant players. His combination of skill, power, creativity and strength make him a menace to contain, as evidenced by the 500 or so goals he has scored across a 20-year professional career. Throw in the fact that Ibrahimovic is one of the most demonstrative and vocal figures in MLS, and he becomes a must-watch every time he takes the field.
4. Soccer For All
In conjunction with Wednesday’s match, Sporting will hold a Soccer For All celebration that highlights the club’s dedication to fostering local communities and providing an environment in which staff, players, partners and fans are treated with dignity and respect. The initiative signifies that everyone is welcome at Sporting, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
At the forefront of Soccer For All, Sporting has unveiled the club’s new Pride Collection, which will be on sale at SportingStyle locations inside the stadium while supplies last. The Pride training top has received rave reviews since debuting last week, and fans are encouraged to arrive early on Wednesday if they wish to purchase the kit. The Toyota Plaza will open at 5:30 p.m. CT and the stadium bowl will open at 6 p.m. CT.
5. Fast and Furious
You may have noticed that fixtures are coming thick and fast for Sporting, who have been tasked with playing three games in seven days. A tough road trip to the Houston Dynamo beckons on Saturday, less than 72 hours after the dust settles on Wednesday’s contest, and the situation is further complicated by Sporting’s lengthy injury list.
With six players questionable and five ruled out entirely, roster rotation becomes difficult. Among those questionable are Matt Besler (hamstring), Andreu Fontas (calf), Krisztian Nemeth (calf), Daniel Salloi (groin), Wan Kuzain (ankle) and Graham Zusi (oblique). Roger Espinoza (knee), Gerso Fernandes (wrist), Erik Hurtado (knee), Jaylin Lindsey (knee) and Rodney Wallace (hip) will miss out.
Keith + Associates Dental Fact
The cotton candy machine that made widely consumed cotton candy possible was co-invented by a dentist. Before it was cotton candy, the fluffy confection was called "fairy floss."