LAFC is back.
Last week against the Vancouver Whitecaps was just a dress rehearsal. This week, there are three points on the line. And coming to Banc of California Stadium is the only side to defeat LAFC at home during the regular season.
Sporting KC will be the first opponent of the 2019 MLS season for LAFC. Last season, SKC won both fixtures against the Black & Gold, including a 2-1 victory on the season's final day to take the top spot in the Western Conference. But Peter Vermes' team is coming off short rest and likely has a long trip to Central America the following week. Will they rotate the squad against LAFC?
We'll get to that question and more as we preview the home opener between LAFC and Sporting KC:
Where To Watch/Listen
LAFC vs Sporting KC, March 3 at 5:30pm PT
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
Joining us on matchday? Make sure you learn about our mobile ticketing. This season, Banc of California Stadium will have mobile-only entry for all matches. Fans will exclusively use their smartphones to scan into matches. This paperless practice will enhance ticket security, support green initiatives, and make it easier for fans to send, sell, receive, and manage their tickets
Unlike LAFC, Sporting KC has already competed in competitive matches in 2019. A 3-0 win over Toluca in the first leg of its Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 match has SKC sitting pretty heading into the second leg in Mexico on Thursday. If SKC holds on to its advantage in the second leg, it would face Independiente of Panama in the quarterfinals beginning in midweek following the LAFC match.
What The Team Is Saying
Steven Beitashour on the team's vibe heading into the season: "The guys are ready. Everyone is anxious to get Sunday here. I think, we still have a sour taste in our mouth from the loss against Salt Lake in the playoffs. We just know that last year was a good year but we didn't necessarily finish the way we wanted to. So, guys have been working hard, guys have been anxious, and Sunday can't come soon enough."
Bob Bradley on continuing the work of last season: "Last year, there wasn't one time that I ever talked about being a first-year team or an expansion team. I just said that now we're a team, and we're trying to become a very good team. There were high expectations last year. I think that we had moments where we did some really good things but certainly, I can still look at every part of the game, and every player here, and there are still things that need to be pushed and improved. That is the work that still continues."
LAFC Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Eddie Segura, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour; Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Lee Nguyen; Diego Rossi, Christian Ramirez, Carlos Vela.
What To Watch For
Will Peter Vermes Rotate His Squad?: There's no question playing in competitive matches prior to the start of the MLS season is helpful to a team. But when those matches fall during the midweek with the season starting on a weekend and more matches to come in midweek the following week, a head coach has to ask himself if his team is being pushed too fast. All indications are that some players from the squad that faces Toluca on Thursday, likely won't be available against LAFC. It is up to head coach Peter Vermes to make that decision when the time comes, but past history shows he's reluctant to make too many chances to the spine of his team. There's a good chance we still see the likes of Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and Ilie Sánchez from the start. But could some of SKC's youngsters get some minutes early in the season?
Revenge On The Menu?: Leading up to this match, many LAFC players have been focused on the disappointing way the 2018 season came to an end in the playoffs. More than a few players have expressed their desire to rewrite the pain they felt after the loss to Real Salt Lake with a good showing in the opening match. You might lump the loss the Sporting KC on the final day of the season into that as well. Sure it was away from home and didn't end LAFC's season, but SKC was the only team to defeat LAFC twice last season. Either way, LAFC players seem intent on making sure fans leave Banc of California Stadium with the right result this time.
Who Starts Up Top?: Will it be Dio or Christian? Luckily, that's a dilemma for Bob Bradley and his staff. I know I wouldn't want to choose between those two. Bradley has always said, team selection is about competing, not sharing minutes. So you have to believe whichever direction he goes it will be with the team's entire well-being in mind. Diomande saw limited minutes in the preseason but was mobile and connecting play when he was on the pitch. Ramirez had a nice assist against Vancouver in the final preseason match and showed he's up to the challenge of being involved in all aspects of the team's game model. It's a tough decision, and likely one we won't find the answer to until the day of the match. But it's something to keep an eye on as the season starts.