The tradition of June being a bad month for Sporting Kansas City continued last Saturday as they gave up a two goal lead in the last five minutes against FC Dallas. The good news is that they were able to salvage a draw against the tough Western Conference team. The bad news was the match was the first result they had gotten in three matches.
Some more good news, however, is that the month of June is almost over. Sporting KC will have to get through the Columbus Crew in their final match of the month before hitting the second half of the season.
About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City has had trouble the past few games, not earning three points in a league match since May 12th. However they will have a full strength lineup tonight since everyone is back from national team duty. Seth Sinovic and Paulo Nagamura were both listed as day-to-day in the injury report this week but nothing suggests that they won't play against Columbus. The only major player missing will be CJ Sapong, who is suspended after earning a red card last Saturday. Sporting sits two points out of third place but they have a match in hand against the Red Bulls and a win against Columbus would be very good for Eastern Conference positioning.
Columbus has been on a rollar-coaster in 2013. There's been highs, including a 2-0 victory against Montreal two matches ago. There's been lows, such as their two wins at Crew Stadium and the loss of Galuber and Eddie Gaven to season-ending injuries. Regardless, this Crew team is a dangerous squad that can really dominate the run of play, lead by Federico Higuain who has created 44 chances in the run of play this year. Columbus sits three points out of fourth so a win against Sporting would put Columbus in playoff position.
How they will Win
Sporting needs to get Claudio Bieler involved in the box and the way they can do that is to create chances in the run of play. If Graham Zusi is at the attacking midfield position again the process will become easier since he is the best player on the team in terms of creating chances with through balls, the kind of chances Bieler needs to succeed. If Bieler can get a goal, plus another one from the team off of a set piece then Sporting should be fine in this match.
Columbus has scored most of their goals in the run of play so there's no reason to tamper with that formula. Columbus needs to pressure the midfield, force Paulo Nagamura and Uri Rosell to make a mistake and turn that into opportunities for the Columbus offense. Sporting has one of the better back lines in the league but enough pressure can force a goal past the Sporting defense.
Players to Watch
Sporting KC- Claudio Bieler
You know that feeling when you can just tell a player is going to go off? I have that feeling towards Claudio Bieler. Bieler hasn't scored a goal in league play since May 4th against Chivas USA. I hate to quote Rex Hudler but Bieler is due for a good match. If Zusi is back at the attacking midfield position then Bieler should get more chances to use his finishing ability that Sporting is paying him DP money for.
Columbus Crew- Federico Higuain
Higuain has been a force for the Crew this season as he leads the league in chances created in the run of play. If Higuain can dominate the midfield and pressure the back line he will bring a good chance for the Crew to walk out of Sporting Park with a result.
Sporting KC: Nielsen, Sinovic, Collin, Besler, Myers, Nagamura, Rosell, Zusi, Joseph, Bieler, Kamara.
Columbus: Gruenebaum, Barson, Marshall, Williams, Wahl, O'Rourke, Anor, Arrieta, Speas, Higuain, Oduro
Sporting KC 2-1 Columbus Crew
This should be a game where Sporting is able to prevail just on better personell. I expect Sporting to do well in the midfield and to keep the pressure on the Columbus defense for the majority of the match.