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LAFC take high-profile squad up against Sporting KC

Jul 17, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Gareth Bale (11) celebrates with midfielder Kellyn Acosta (23) after a win against the Nashville SC at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The ballyhooed duo of Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini are set to make their second MLS appearances when Los Angeles FC face Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night at Kansas City, Kan.

Bale, the former Real Madrid and Tottenham star striker, entered in the 72nd minute of Sunday’s 2-1 road win over Nashville SC. Chiellini, a star defender formerly of Juventus, played the first 60 minutes as LAFC improved to 6-1-1 over their past eight matches.

LAFC (13-4-3, 42 points) own the top record in MLS and should only be more powerful once the 33-year-old Bale and 37-year-old Chiellini hit their strides.

“We have to continue to win, because if we want to stay at the top of the league, we have to win away games,” Chiellini, the long-time Italian national team captain, said after his debut. “It’s important. It’s a league in which there are so many counterattacks and the teams play open.

“It’s a little bit different from what I am used to in Italy, but I think also I can help my team in order to be more compact, more solid and to control the game in the best way.”

Cristian Arango scored his team-leading eighth goal in LAFC’s win over Nashville. Jose Cifuentes scored the decisive goal in the 46th minute. Cifuentes is tied with Carlos Vela for second on the squad with six goals.

Sporting Kansas City (5-12-5, 20 points) also have made recent personnel moves, with Nigerian forward Willy Agada and German midfielder Erik Thommy expected to make their debuts.

The duo arrive as Sporting KC continue to sputter and sit in last place in the Western Conference.

“You have to believe on the pitch that you can win games,” Thommy told reporters. “If you watch the games, they are not worse than the other teams. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s small wrong decisions and we have to believe in ourselves.”

Sporting KC have been outscored 9-3 while going 1-3-1 over their past five matches. They gave up three second-half goals in Sunday’s 3-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake.

Johnny Russell leads SKC with six goals.

–Field Level Media