Sporting KC heads to Columbus to face the red-hot Crew

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The Crew need points to stay alive. Sporting needs points to keep pace. The home stretch has arrived.

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

The most consistently inconsistent team in MLS struck again last week with a 1-0 home loss to the Philadelphia Union after a three game winning streak. Now Sporting's Supporters Shield hopes are nearly gone as the time starts to tick away. In order to keep pace with the top of the East and the MLS they absolutely need points tonight because they'll more than likely be missing multiple starters for Wednesday's match with the Dynamo. Sporting will be missing Oriol Rosell due to yellow card accumulation.

Columbus Crew

The Crew are daring to dream the improbable as they try and rally for one of those elusive playoff spots. Nearly down for the count, the Crew have suddenly won three in a row and have been looking sharp under the administration of Brian Bliss. They will have the full strength lineup that they did not have in their 3-0 loss to Sporting back on August 31st, they will have a rowdy Columbus crowd behind them and they will have the inspiration of a playoff spot calling for them to play harder. This is a scary team right now, one Sporting may have caught at the wrong time.

Players to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Lawrence Olum

With Rosell out and Nagamura likely out, Lawrence Olum will be man to assume midfield duties alongside Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber. The good thing about Olum being back there is he is a defensive player and can help the back line. The bad news is he is not the passer that Rosell is. While Zusi and Feilhaber likely manning the offensive duties of the midfield will lift some of the burden off of Olum's shoulders, Olum needs to be serviceable in the midfield. He needs to help get the ball to the playmakers while not allowing the dangerous Columbus attack any wiggle room.

Columbus Crew- Dominic Oduro

The reigning offensive player of the month has been a huge part in the Crew's recent success. He has scored goals off of turnovers and has scored goals with his speed overpowering back lines. Those are two attributes that do not bode well for the away side. Columbus was able to counter twice in the first matchup between these two teams in a 3-2 Sporting KC win so they know how to get the ball to Oduro on counters. If they can use his speed and skill again, it'll be a good night for Oduro.

How they will win

Sporting Kansas City

Brian Bliss has turned the Crew into more of an up-tempo squad that turns into more scoring opportunities. This match will be a quick, fierce and most likely high-scoring match. Sporting needs to match the Crew step for step and force the pressure down the throats of the home side. Rosell's absence means that Zusi and Feilhaber will most likely both be in the middle with Saad, Bieler and Sapong on the attack. These five men are in charge of not letting Columbus get any wiggle room past the halfway line. They need to score and score often to beat the Crew.

Columbus Crew

Rosell's absence is going to hurt Sporting KC a ton. Columbus needs to use this to their advantage by making Lawrence Olum make or break the game for Sporting KC. If they can keep the pressure on the Sporting back line by breaking up chances up top and turning them into counters then they will have a very fun night. Oduro has the speed to make Sporting's defense pay if Higuain can get the ball to him as Sporting's defense reels. Columbus has already proven they can beat Sporting on counters, they just need to keep them off the board to win this match.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting KC: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Olum, Feilhaber, Zusi, Saad, Bieler, Sapong

Columbus: Lampson; Barson, Marshall, Williams, Viana; Oduro, Trapp, Tchani, Anor; Higuaín ©, Arrieta

Scoreline

Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Columbus Crew
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