Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes insists Los Angeles FC will remain competitive despite losing key player Diego Rossi.
Rossi, who scored the first ever MLS goal for LAFC, has been sent to Turkish giants Fenerbahce on an initial loan which will begin immediately.
The electrifying forward had featured in 19 of his side’s 21 MLS games this term, starting 18 of those, but Bob Bradley will now have to find an alternative option in attack.
LAFC’s first game since Rossi’s departure will come this Friday against Sporting KC at Banc of California Stadium, where Vermes is predicting a tough test for his side.
“They have so many other good players,” he said. “They have a great team. We don’t expect anything less. With all respect to Rossi, he wasn’t the team.
“They have a great team and we’re in for a huge battle against them. The last thing we ever do is take anyone lightly. We’re not that good, and you can’t do that in this league.”
Sporting are unbeaten in six matches but have drawn the last three of those, most recently 1-1 against Colorado Rapids, to find themselves two points off top spot in the Western Conference.
LAFC drew 3-3 with rivals Los Angeles Galaxy last time out, meanwhile, extending their winless run to a club-record eight matches, five of which have ended in defeat.
With Rossi moving on, Bradley has suggested certain members of his squad have been unsettled by speculation surrounding their futures.
“I think at some level, with some guys they’ve had other things on their mind and haven’t been completely engaged,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions with a lot of guys about those things. Getting everybody to be alive at the most important time of the year is still really important.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Los Angeles FC – Danny Musovski
Brian Rodriguez scored twice against the Galaxy but is one of four players absent through international duty for this match. With the injured Carlos Vela also expected to miss out again, Bradley is light on options. Musovski has one goal in 10 appearances this season, which includes only two starts, but this may be his chance to shine.
Sporting Kansas City – Alan Pulido
Vermes is without the division’s joint-second top-scorer in Daniel Salloi and designated player Gadi Kinda, so Sporting will be relying on the likes of Johnny Russell and Pulido.
Mexican striker Pulido has eight goals and two assists to his name this term, including a strike in Sporting’s 4-1 win over LAFC last month.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Sporting Kansas City have won four of their six all-time matches against Los Angeles FC (L2), including recording wins in both meetings this season. Sporting, who also beat LAFC twice in 2018, are the only team to win multiple matches against LAFC in a season more than once.
– LAFC ended a club-record four-match losing streak with a 3-3 draw against the Galaxy, though it extended the club-record winless run to eight games (D3 L5). LAFC had previously never gone more than five straight games without a win in MLS play.
– Sporting KC have lost just one of their last 12 MLS matches (W6 D5), though their last three have all ended in draws. It is the first time Sporting have split the points in three straight matches since July 2017.
– Rodriguez scored twice in LAFC’s draw with the Galaxy after scoring just twice in his first 33 MLS matches. It was the 26th multi-goal performance by a player in a regular season match in LAFC’s history, two more than any other team since they joined the league in 2018.
– Russell scored his fourth career direct free-kick goal in Sporting’s draw against Colorado on Saturday. Russell’s four direct free-kick goals are more than any other Sporting player since 2010 (Benny Feilhaber – three).