In the discussion of Major League Soccer’s most underrated rivalries, Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy certainly has its place. The fellow charter members have locked horns 73 times in MLS competition since 1996, including nine playoff meetings through the first nine seasons of the league.
Sporting and LA were scheduled to square off in their 74th MLS battle on Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, only for COVID-19 to alter that course.
In lieu of Saturday’s postponement, let’s look back at six of Sporting’s greatest victories over the perennial MLS powers from Southern California.
Game 3 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals – Oct. 6, 2000
MLS’s playoff format in the league’s formative years was absolutely wild. Leading up to the single-match MLS Cup, postseason matchups were decided in a three-game series. The first team to five or more points—three points for a victory, one for a tie—won the series and advanced.
The 2000 conference finals between Kansas City and LA just might be the craziest series in Sporting’s playoff history. The teams scrapped to a 0-0 tie in Game 1 at Arrowhead Stadium before the Galaxy prevailed 2-1 in extra time in Game 2 at the Rose Bowl. Returning to Kansas City for Game 3, the Wizards trailed 4-1 on points and needed to win in regulation to force a sudden-death mini-game.
Enter Miklos Molnar, a true Kansas City cult hero who bagged 17 goals in 24 MLS appearances that season. Two of which came on Oct. 6, 2000, as he notched the lone goal in Kansas City’s 1-0 regulation victory before netting the golden goal in the mini-game. His legendary performance catapulted Kansas City to the 2000 MLS Cup, where they would knock off the vaunted Chicago Fire for the club’s first league championship.
The 2004 Western Conference Final – Nov. 14, 2004
Four years after Molnar scalped the Galaxy, Kansas City and LA met once more at Arrowhead Stadium with an MLS Cup appearance on the line. The single-game spectacle saw Davy Arnaud emerge as the unquestioned man of the match, as he scored in the 24th and 69th minutes to help the Wizards secure another Western Conference crown.
Beating Beckham – Sept. 13, 2008
A boisterous crowd of 26,113 had descended on Arrowhead Stadium to see international soccer icon David Beckham make his first MLS appearance in Kansas City. And while most eyeballs may have been glued on the famous Englishman, the Wizards had their sights set on all three points. Josh Wolff struck in the 67th minute and Arnaud doubled Kansas City’s lead two minutes later to seal the triumph.
Feilhaber’s Free Kick – July 19, 2014
July 19, 2014 will forever go down as a significant date in Sporting’s proud history. That morning, a few weeks after starring for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the FIFA World Cup, fan favorites Matt Besler and Graham Zusi signed long-term contract extensions with the club. That afternoon, Sporting harnessed all of that palpable momentum to deliver the eventual MLS Cup champions a 2-1 defeat at sunny Children’s Mercy Park. Lawrence Olum tallied the game-winner in the second half, but the match will be remembered for Benny Feilhaber’s magisterial free kick in the 10th minute.
The Ike Bike – June 24, 2017
If you saw it live, you’ll probably never forget it.
Ike Opara was named the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year, helping Sporting to a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and a seventh consecutive playoff appearance. But his biggest individual highlight of the season was an eye-opening offensive contribution in a 2-1 road win over the Galaxy. Famously dubbed the “Ike Bike,” his bicycle kick remains a defining flashbulb moment of 2017.
Melia’s Magic – April 8, 2018
The hype surrounding newly acquired Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic was palpable heading into LA’s home game against Sporting on April 8, 2018. The Swedish superstar had arrived in America and was ready to take MLS by storm.
Except Tim Melia never got the memo.
The Sporting goalkeeper enjoyed one of his best matches ever, making a career-high and club-record 10 saves. On the opposite end of the pitch, Johnny Russell emasculated the LA backline with a wonderful solo goal and Daniel Salloi also found the scoresheet. Final score: Sporting 2, Galaxy 0.