Perry Kitchen has been stout in the LA Galaxy midfield during the four-game winning streak. Can he keep it going against the San Jose Earthquakes?
LA Galaxy midfielder Perry Kitchen said he and his teammates “were hungry to get back on the field to get results” following their disappointing performance in the recent MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla.
The 28-year-old, now in his eighth season, helped prove that point during last Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Los Angeles FC at Dignity Health Sports Park. It was his dogged pursuit of LAFC’s Diego Rossi on a semi-breakaway — “The better part of 80 yards, I would say,” he told reporters Thursday of his chase — that helped highlight the club’s fourth consecutive victory and affirmed the five-time MLS Cup champions’ new attitude.
Kitchen had a laugh when recalling the play.
“I’m not quite sure what happened, but we lost the ball just outside the 18,” he said as the Galaxy prepared for Sunday’s clash in San Jose at Earthquakes Stadium (8 p.m., UniMas). “They’re a team that breaks quick. Rossi obviously has a lot of pace. I knew I had a guy off my back shoulder. I didn’t want him to play the ball too early, so I had to kind of keep my space in the middle and close the gap as he got closer to the goal.
“The timing was good. Dave (goalkeeper Bingham) and I said we were lucky he didn’t dink the ball over because that probably would have been a goal. He played it on the ground, and at the end of the day it was a good play.”
Not to mention another good day for a revitalized team whose showing in Orlando, Kitchen admitted, might have been just what it needed to save what was shaping up to be a lost season.
“It left a bitter taste in most guys’ mouths. We just weren’t happy with how the results went,” he said. “Obviously losing to our rival (LAFC) 6-2 didn’t set well with us. We knew once we got back we had to really dig in and step up, especially seeing the games we were going to be playing.
“Getting back with a month of training heading into our first game again, the focus was there. Guys were hungry to get back on the field to get results. I think you’ve seen that. But saying that, it’s only been four games and we have to continue that because there’s still a lot to be played.”
San Jose hasn’t exactly been the friendliest environment for the Galaxy of late. In fact, since the 2014 season, the Galaxy are 2-4-3 on the road against the Earthquakes. Their last meeting up north was a 3-0 loss on June 29, 2019. Their last win in San Jose was 4-2 on May 27, 2017.
The Galaxy (4-3-2, 14 points) will be facing an Earthquakes team that snapped a three-game losing streak with a 1-1 tie against Colorado last Saturday but dropped a Thursday night clash with the Seattle Sounder by a final of 7-1. Sunday’s game also is a rematch of the teams’ previous meeting, a 3-2 Galaxy win on Aug. 29 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
San Jose (2-4-3, nine points), is led by the ageless Chris Wondolowski, 37, who has three goals. Cristian Espinoza has a team-leading four assists.
Kitchen wasn’t as concerned about the Quakes as he was about the Galaxy, who could welcome back injured striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez this weekend. Jonathan dos Santos, steadily recovering from sports hernia surgery, will be a game-time decision as well.
“I think we’ve always had the quality, it’s just about putting it together,” Kitchen said. “I think you’ve seen in these last couple of weeks that we’ve been able to be deadly in the attack and also defend solidly.
“There’s never been any doubt that we weren’t going to get a result these past few games. That’s been the difference.”
And Kitchen certainly has done his part in that.
“He’s playing very smart, very simple,” head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “He covers the area, he plays one or two touches, he adds a real dynamic to his playing. And he gets the team to play better.
“He’s growing as a player and we are very happy with him.”