CARSON, Calif. – Saturday’s showdown between high-flying Sporting Kansas City (4-1-2, 14 points) and the two-time defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy (2-1-2, 8 points) at The Home Depot Center (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network, AM 1150, 1330 AM, LIVECHAT) has the makings of one of the more attractive games of the year.
But don’t call it a “big” game. The MLS season is much too young for that designation.
“You look at our season, and it’s too early in the season to call it anything,” striker Robbie Keane said. “Every game is a big game because you want to do well and win, it breeds confidence into the team.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. The games we did lose we didn’t deserve to lose. I wouldn’t be too worried at the moment.”
Added the Galaxy’s Mike Magee, who has an MLS-best five goals on the season, “It’s a good test of how we bounce back. We haven’t done that yet this year.
“Last year we failed that test early on, and now we’re going to see what this team’s about.”
The Galaxy are coming off a particularly frustrating period in which they were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League by Monterrey and, three days later, lost in the final minutes to FC Dallas, conceding an 87th minute goal to lose 1-0. Now they take on a Sporting Kansas City club which apparently can do no wrong at the moment.
Kansas City sit atop the Eastern Conference and have put together five consecutive shutouts – their scoreless string is at 519 minutes -- and has given up just three goals in seven games, second in MLS to the two allowed by New England, although the Revolution have played two fewer matches. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has a league-leading 0.43 goals-against average and the back line is anchored by center backs Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin, who scored the winning goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
Kansas City also are a getting a big season from a new star, striker Claudio Bieler, who has four goals in seven games since leaving Ecuador’s LDU Quito to sign with Kansas City in December.
“They’re a very good team,” the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan said. “They work very hard, they defend well together and they’re finding ways to score goals and win games.
“It will be a real good challenge for us.”
Perhaps just the kind of challenge the Galaxy need at this moment of the season to snap them out of their mini-funk.
“We’re disappointed in the way we’ve played the last few weeks,” Donovan went on. “It’s going to be a difficult game, but after everything that happened last year we understand that it really matters at the end of the year.
“However, we want to get back to the things we’re good at. We can handle losing and handle not winning games, but we’ve got to be better in certain areas. It if happens fine, but we’re not going to keep giving away points like we have been.”