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Knockout-bound: Sporting KC 2, LAFC 1

LAFC fight back, but it’s not enough to end regular season.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Sporting KC William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City ended the 2018 MLS regular season atop the Western Conference, after they defeated Los Angeles Football Club 2-1 on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.

LAFC fielded a lineup mostly unchanged from last week’s draw against Vancouver Whitecaps, with only Eduard Atuesta coming back in to the starting XI in place of Aaron Kovar.

But even though this was the presumable first-choice lineup for Bob Bradley, LAFC looked completely out of their depth to start the game, as Sporting forced a save from Tyler Miller in the opening seconds of the game and pushed the tempo throughout.

LAFC were forced to hold on and try to out-muscle their physical opponent, and while they got their licks in, they looked totally disjointed and their best scoring opportunities in the opening half came from free kicks, none of which were particularly effective.

Carlos Vela had an audacious attempt from distance at the 30-minute mark, but Tim Melia caught the ball to keep the game scoreless.

Then Sporting took the lead in the 37th minute through Roger Espinoza. Miller went on walkabout to clear a ball well outside of the box, followed by Sporting forcing a quick turnover. Even though Miller could get back to get in goal, Espinoza found space outside the box, then blasted it in to put the home side ahead.

Latif Blessing came off the bench at halftime for Atuesta, and it immediately gave LAFC some traction in the attack in the second 45.

At the hour mark, LAFC nearly scored on a corner kick, with Adama Diomande’s attempt saved on the line by Seth Sinovic. However, VAR recommended a review, with the result giving LAFC a penalty and a red card to Sinovic for DOGSO. Vela stepped up to score the penalty in the 63rd minute to tie the game.

But while LAFC had a couple good chances, Sporting took the lead in the 72nd minute as Daniel Salloi hit another go-ahead goal from the edge of the box, against the run of play.

The physical play reached a peak moments later as Blessing was forced out of the game due to a head injury, as he was hit by Espinoza and blood was gushing out of his face. He was replaced by Marco Ureña, unable to continue.

After that, Sporting did enough to stymie LAFC and cruise to a win. The result means LAFC will finish as the No. 3 seed and open the playoffs midweek, against Real Salt Lake, after the Houston Dynamo beat LA Galaxy to knock the Trafico rivals out of the playoffs. That playoff game will take place at Banc of California Stadium, with details to be determined later today.

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