The LA Galaxy traveled to Sporting KC on Saturday night posting back to back shutouts over Seattle and Vancouver and looking to take a significant step towards a playoff position.
But what transpired over 90-minutes of soccer was a crazy affair that saw goalposts hit on a regular occasion, some rain, and a score knotted in a 1-1 draw at a sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
For the Galaxy (12-11-9), three points would have shuttled them, at least momentarily, past Real Salt Lake who was busy hosting the Portland Timbers (a game they would lose by a score of 4-1). But the draw now means the Galaxy will need to rely on Real Salt Lake dropping more points through their remaining two games of the season.
The final product for the Galaxy is no longer completely in their hands.
Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham was the hero on the night. He made eight saves on the night including a goal-line clearance of ball that was behind him and in which he batted off the upright and watched it bounce all the way across the goal and somehow stay out.
Bingham has been inconsistent for much of the year. Leaving many to wonder if the defense in front of him was horrible – it is – or if he was the problem. Against Sporting KC, he was never the problem. Instead, he was most often the savior.
The Galaxy’s starting lineup only had one change in it as the yellow card suspended Rolf Feltscher was replaced by Sheanon Williams at right-back. Williams made his first start of the season and made his longest appearance going 74 minutes and acquitting himself quite well.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was much quieter in this game than the Galaxy would have liked. But that was a result of Sporting pinning the Galaxy into their own end for long stretches at a time. But the fast start by the Galaxy – something they’ve lived off of in their last two wins – put the club ahead in the 25th-minute.
That’s when Ibrahimovic converted a penalty kick that was drawn just moments earlier when Ola Kamara was taken down inside the box by Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia. Melia was just a touch late in trying to attack a cross from Galaxy midfielder Romain Alessandrini.
The foul allowed Ibrahimovic to score his 21st goal of the season, moving him up to tie Eduardo Hurtado’s 1996 season and placing him second all-time in the Galaxy’s single-season goal total. Only Carlos Ruiz’s 24 goals remain to be broken for Ibrahimovic. And with two games remaining, the odds of him tying it would surprise anyone.
The Galaxy would eventually be outshot 34 to eight and nine to three on target. Numbers that prove Sporting was far from efficient in finding the back of the net.
But the numbers also hide the fact the Galaxy had a goal called back by the Video Assistant Referee, and a clear-cut scoring chance that was botched by Ashley Cole at the end of the first half. If the Galaxy could have been more clinical in their finishing they may have walked away with three points. The ball, however, had other ideas.
Sporting (15-8-8) would finally equalize in the 83rd-minute when Johnny Russell dribbled through five Galaxy players and buried a left-footed shot past Bingham. It was one of a few defensive lapses for the Galaxy but it was also well past due for Sporting – that included a Russell header that was batted off the line and then the post by Bingham in the 62nd minute.
The goal also ended the Galaxy’s 262-minute shutout streak. A streak that almost seems impossible when considering the Galaxy have now conceded 60 goals on the season.
With the draw, Sporting was able to clinch a playoff spot and will now fight for the rest of the season to secure a top-two spot — thereby avoiding any play in games.
But for the Galaxy, the playoffs remain something to aspire to. It’s definitely no certainty and they’ll need help from Portland to advance.
The club will get a two-week break before their next match when they’ll travel to the horrendous turf of Minnesota United before closing out their season at home against the Houston Dynamo.
During that time most speculation will be around whether Ibrahimovic will avoid the game in Minnesota, thereby avoiding the turf.
The game didn’t go exactly as the Galaxy had hoped, but they’re still alive and will get to see exactly what they need to do down the stretch.