A pivotal final match of the regular season took place in Missouri as Sporting Kansas City looked to hold off Los Angeles FC for first place in the Western Conference. Here are three things we learned from Sporting KC’s 2-1 victory.
The top four in the Western Conference were up in the air entering Sunday’s slate of matches. Multiple scenarios were in play for who could and ultimately would secure the first round playoff bye.
Arguably the biggest match of the day in the league came in Missouri, where Sporting Kansas City hosted Los Angeles FC in what would play a huge role in determining the final playoff pairings. It was a quite simple scenario for Sporting KC: Win and they would win the conference; lose, and potentially drop as low as fourth.
LAFC, KC’s opponents, required some assistance from the Colorado Rapids, who were playing host to FC Dallas, if they wanted to win the West. But irrespective of that result, they still had playoff seeding to compete for. As expected, this match lived up to its bidding as a heated and tense affair ensued in the regular-season finale.
Sporting KC struck first when Roger Espizona produced a moment of brilliance with a blast from well outside the penalty area.
The home side carried their 1-0 advantage into the halftime break. However, they were met with disaster in the second half when Seth Sinovic was sent off in the 62nd minute for a handball on the goal-line. Carlos Vela stepped up and sent Tim Melia the wrong way to level things up.
Down to 10 men, Sporting KC did not go away and sit back. Daniel Salloi registered his 11th goal of the season at the most critical moment. No more goals were to come. The match finished 2-1 in favor of the hosts as they claimed the Western Conference title.
After a thrilling match, here are three things we learned from this riveting regular-season finale.
3. LAFC struggle defensively entering the postseason
One area where LAFC have not figured things out at is on the backline. With inconsistent form, the backline has given LAFC plenty of problems with 52 goals conceded across the season.
That tally is worse than every single other team in the playoffs other than Real Salt Lake. Obviously, this team is built around its attacking potency — only Atlanta United scored more goals in all of MLS in the regular season. And the departure of Laurent Ciman was a major blow midway through the year. These are all excuses. But they aren’t reasons.
LAFC’s defensive record simply isn’t good enough, and when it comes to playoff football, leaking goals will always be a critical flaw. They will have the second highest amount of goals conceded out of the six qualifiers for the playoffs in the West. It may well cost them a run at the MLS Cup.