Major League Soccer

Vieira, NYCFC brace for visit from LA Galaxy

New York City FC has the weight of expectation on its shoulders this year.

In Year Three of Patrick Vieira's reign as head coach -- and the club's fourth overall -- NYCFC is considered a strong contender to capture MLS Cup in December.

While defending champion Toronto FC and fellow contender Atlanta United FC stumbled out of the gate in Week 1, NYCFC picked up an impressive 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City at Children's Mercy Park.

Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina scored in each half and were part of a midfield that pressed SKC into turnovers and created scoring opportunities for the visitors. They hope to replicate that performance -- and the result -- when NYCFC faces the LA Galaxy in the team's home opener Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

"We're going into the game, of course, with a lot of confidence after our game against (Sporting Kansas City), but that's going to be another big challenge for us," Vieira said. "We have to prepare the game well, we have to be ready because we're going to face a really strong team again. We have to try to improve."

Vieira will likely march out a nearly identical starting XI against the Galaxy Sunday, with the exemption of starting central defender Maxime Chanot, who was shown a straight red card two minutes from full time for denial of an obvious scoring opportunity. Sebastian Ibeagha, one of 10 newcomers signed during the offseason, will likely get the nod in Chanot's stead.

"We've been working quite well in the last couple of weeks, we are more solid as a team," Vieira said. "We worked really well against (Sporting Kansas City). What will bet important for us is try to improve game after game because I think there's a lot to come from this team."

Following a nightmarish 2017, which saw the LA Galaxy finish last among MLS' 22 teams, Sigi Schmid's squad opened the new season with an impressive 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers on Sunday at StubHub Center.

Ola Kamara, who arrived in Los Angeles in a trade with Columbus in January, scored the first goal and Romain Alessandrini doubled the advantage just two minutes later.

But Alessandrini left the match holding his hamstring and the French midfielder will miss Sunday's contest against NYCFC. The injury, though, is less serious than originally feared. Sebastian Lletget, who missed nearly a year with a foot injury, should replace Alessandrini in LA's starting XI.

"He has a bit of a hamstring strain," Schmid said on Wednesday. "He went back to the doctor today, so we'll have a better idea of what the long-term prognosis is. It looks like he's not available for New York, but there is a good chance that he'll be available for Vancouver (on March 24)."

This is the fourth all-time meeting between the clubs, with NYCFC winning the last two following a 5-1 LA victory in Carson in 2015. NYCFC won the only encounter at Yankee Stadium (Aug. 20, 2016) with David Villa scoring the lone goal.

Updated March 9, 2018

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