Sporting Kansas City's captain mans the back line, but on Thursday evening, Matt Besler was instead a spectator, away from the club on international duty. The other half of his typical center-back pairing stayed home with an injury. A potential fill-in for the two was injured during practice this week.
A band-aid defensive unit kept the league's best scoring team silent Thursday in Los Angeles.
Sporting Kansas City earned a crucial road point in a 0-0 draw with the LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
The Galaxy, which entered play Thursday leading Major League Soccer in goals per match, didn't even manage a shot on goal.
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"With as many different players that we had to put in the lineup, and with (them) not having continuity over a number of games, for them to come in and perform the way they did was admirable," Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview after the match.
Admirable. But not particularly entertaining.
On Friday morning, Major League Soccer will pause its schedule for 15 days, a hiatus to observe a busy international slate. Its final game before the break left much to be desired, even if that was at least partially by Sporting Kansas City's design.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia didn't need to make a save for his shutout. LA keeper Brian Rowe made four, none of them requiring extraordinary effort.
Sporting KC, 5-8-3, used the center back pairing of Ike Opara and Lawrence Olum — the latter making his first start at the position this season. With its personnel, the club seemed content to earn a point on the road with a scoreless draw. Neither team found many chances toward goal, even in the waning moments.
Sporting KC obtained its best scoring chance in the first half, after a flick from Paulo Nagamura to Dom Dwyer. Faced with a one-on-one with Rowe, Dwyer wasted the opportunity with a soft shot wide of target.
"Our effort, our organization and our defending was tremendous," Vermes said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't stick one in the back of the net — we almost could've taken the full three points. But it was a good (game) for us."
Sporting KC played without three players on national-team duty. Besler and winger Graham Zusi are with the U.S. men's national team, which opens its Copa America schedule Friday evening against Colombia, and defensive midfielder Soni Mustivar is with Haiti. Benny Feilhaber dropped to the back of the midfield in place of Mustivar.
Midfielder Brad Davis and center back Nuno Coelho sat out with minor muscle strains. Center back Kevin Ellis injured his groin in practice Tuesday.
The group will have an extended timeline to rest. Sporting KC does not return to action until June 15, when it opens the defense of its U.S. Open Cup championship. The club will travel to face Minnesota United FC at 7 p.m.
The MLS schedule resumes June 19. Sporting KC will play host to FC Dallas at Children's Mercy Park.