Perhaps Sporting Kansas City should change their poseur-oriented moniker and revert to the good old "Kansas City Wizards."
I mean, it sure helped Peter Vermes's men last season at the Home Depot Center, when they laid the hammer down on Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy by the tune of 2-0 on Aug. 28 of last year.
My, my, my, how the times have changed.
Sporting were taking on a Galaxy side desperate for a return to form. It didn't help matters that a certain Omar Bravo would be sidelined for a while due to sports hernia surgery.
Nor did the situation get ameliorated by the fact that Sporting was riding a three-game losing streak.
Make that four.
In spite of a 39th-minute howler from the Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez, who becomes Chicken Thief No. 3 (yes, even the home team's players can be held liable for stripping the fans of their well-deserved poultry from Pollo Campero), the tandem of Landon Donovan, Juan Pablo Angel and David Beckham bailed the defender out en route to a 4-1 victory at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on a cool May evening.
If it weren't for that own goal, it could be considered the most comprehensive performance by the Galaxy to date. All right, it's close enough.
Then again, this is bottom-of-the-barrel Sporting Kansas City we're talking about here. Of course the Galaxy are expected to snap out of their hoodoo against the cellar-dweller of Major League Soccer, right?
It didn't seem that way for a good deal of the first half. Sporting benefited from some tenacious goalkeeping from Eric Kronberg—who was lucky enough to prevent a hat trick for Landon Donovan (more on him after the jump)—as well as some gutsy defending from one Aurelien Collin, who shined amongst the Sporting backline in my book.
He made some stops, did his dispossessions, cleared the ball and made things easy for Kronberg at times.
In the 39th minute, it looked like Sporting didn't miss much from last year. In fact, Sporting's Milos Stojcev should have been the chicken thief here, because that was a good look on goal.
Omar Gonzalez, for all that he has done, needs to work on positioning himself so that he clears the ball, rather than redirects it, and in the process, rob the fans of their poultry. It's just unacceptable, and he knows better.
Thankfully for LA, Sporting are a team that can't generate offense out of a wet paper bag. Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi and Davy Arnaud were neutralized at will, and for the looks Stephane Auvray and Teal Bunbury had, they could only fire wide, with too much elevation on the side.
The match would turn on its in the 44th minute, when Roger Espinoza fouled David Beckham inside the box.
Baldomero Toledo, who, for once, called a good game (although that yellow card to Juninho was unwarranted, but it was a right call nonetheless; the young Brazilian knows better than to foul in that position in the 78th minute of play), points to the spot, and Donovan converts.
Cool, calm, collected, easy as you like...1-1 heading into the break.
Enter the second half. And suddenly, things go south for the visitors as the Los Angeles Galaxy start to play like the Galaxy team of last year when they are on their game.
Solid passing, timely dispossession, stops here and there by backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders (who filled in for an ill Donovan Ricketts)...and a goal each from the three main players on the squad sealed Sporting's fate.
Just seconds into the match, Chad Barrett feeds Donovan a through ball inside the box and the No. 10 gets his brace with ease, fooling Kronberg, and placing him fourth all-time in MLS goals scored with 110.
But it didn't stop there. No, no, no. Not against this Sporting side. I think Juan Pablo Angel should play off the bench instead of start. He seems to find his scoring touch better when he is a sub in relief of Miguel Lopez.
On Saturday, it worked like a charm, as Barrett delivered a through ball to Angel, and as the Sporting backline asked for a raising of the flag, they wouldn't get it, as Angel scored his second of the season.
Beckham, though, would put the icing on the cake. Now it has been a set-piece lottery for No. 23. Either the set piece is headed in/finished by another white shirt or (more commonly) it is cleared/misses the target with style.
At 87 minutes in (which is, coincidentally, the same number of minutes it took Pali Blues to get their first victory of the season in the USL W-League this year, but that's a different story), Beckham hit the jackpot. In true vintage fashion, the curve, the trajectory, and the angle were spot on.
Kronberg was helpless to stop that shot. Pure class. Couldn't have drawn it up any better.
I do have a couple other gripes from this contest, aside from Gonzalez's brain explosion.
Miguel Lopez needs to do a better job of finishing the chances he gets off the delivery. Early in the first half, he had his share of looks, but couldn't get the mechanics right.
In another sequence, Lopez could have passed to a couple of trailing Galaxy attackers on his right side in the 15th minute of play, but was a little bit selfish. Should have passed to his right and settled for the assist because they had space to slip one past Kronberg.
Mechanics and unselfishness. That's what this promising up-and-comer needs to work on.
And, for the love of all things Blue and Gold, Landon Donovan, finish that chance in stoppage time. I mean, this is unacceptable to let a beaten keeper prevent you from getting your hat trick when defenders are rolling all over the turf, and you have space to bury it!
While getting a brace was fair enough, in all honesty, this had hat trick written all over it. What a waste. Que sera, sera.
Otherwise, with a three-game winless streak now turned into a three-game unbeaten streak in the space of four days with a three-goal victory, the Galaxy find themselves in good stead as they return to Victoria Street to take on Chivas USA.
Goats, the notice is out. Better read it while you have the time...
Kickoff between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA is scheduled for Saturday, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. PT/10:00 p.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.