Sporting Kansas City; Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Cesar, Arnaud (C) (Olum 77'), Zusi, Kamara, Bravo (Harrington 86'), Sapong
Columbus Crew; Hesmer, Miranda, Marshall (C), James, Francis, Burns, Epko, Rogers (Heinemann 82'), Duka (Cunningham 83'), Mendoza, Renteria (Meram 70')
Sporting Kansas City; Besler,Collin - yellow cards
Columbus; Francis- yellow card
No tie breakers needed this time, folks. For the first time this season, Sporting Kansas City are officially alone in first place in the Eastern Conference after tonight's 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew. Kansas City currently stands at 44 points in the Eastern Conference table, two more points than the Houston Dynamo.
Sporting were able to weather a somewhat sloppy performance, and an Emilio Renteria goal in the first half to put the Columbus Crew away, courtesy of a Kei Kamara penalty kick, and an own goal from Crew defender Julius James.
Wednesday marked the return of Davy Arnaud to the Sporting Kansas City line up. His appearance also tied Arnaud with Kerry Zavagnin for the club's all-time mark for games played in a Kansas City shirt. Arnaud now sits at 237 games played for the club.
The return of Arnaud was a welcome sight for Sporting Kansas City fans, as Roger Espinoza was deemed unfit before the start of the match, due to a quad strain he sustained earlier in the week. Arnaud was back to doing what he's always done the best; working non-stop, and causing havoc in the middle of the pitch.
The match started out somewhat like you would have imagined, with Sporting Kansas City attempting to push the ball up the field, and apply pressure to the Columbus Crew defense. In the fifth minute of play, Bravo had a glorious opportunity inside the box, but his shot was directed right at Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, who easily made the save. A mere four minutes later Bravo crossed the ball into the box with a nice pass on the ground. Unfortunately, Bravo's pass was unable to connect, as there wasn't a single Sporting player in the box to attempt a shot on goal.
In the 14th minute, CJ Sapong showed just why so many of the Sporting Kansas City faithful have been calling for him to join the starting lineup, as he was able to use his strength to force Columbus captain Chad Marshall to foul him inside the box, which resulted in a penalty kick for Kei Kamara.
Kamara converted the chance with relative ease, putting Sporting Kansas City up 1-0 in the first fifteen minutes of the match. The penalty kick was Kamara's ninth goal of the season, tying him with Omar Bravo for the team lead.
It was exactly the type of start Sporting were hoping for, scoring the first goal, and forcing the Columbus Crew to have to do more than simply play for the draw.
Throughout the season Sporting Kansas City has had problems keeping the lead in games, and Wednesday night would prove to be no different.
Anyone hoping that the earlier Kamara penalty score was going to set the tone for the rest of the match was due for a rude awakening. In the 34th minute of play Emilio Renteria tied the match after the Sporting defense was unable to shut down the middle of the field, giving Renteria a clear path to smash the ball past Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Just like that, Columbus had leveled the score, and the pressure was once again on Sporting Kansas City to punch another one through if they wanted three points from the match.
Demoralized perhaps is the right word to describe how everyone inside of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park may have been feeling after the Renteria strike.
The half would end with the match tied 1-1.
The second half saw a continuation of slightly sloppy play from both teams. It appeared Sporting were not having their best game, as many of their passes failed to connect.
In one of the rare chances Sporting had in the second half, Chance Myers fired a laser towards the Columbus goal that just missed the mark, hitting the right goal post, leaving Myers just inches from scoring his first goal in Major League Soccer.
As the match continued it looked as if Sporting Kansas City were going to have to settle for a draw once again. But in the 73rd minute of play, luck fell Kansas City's way.
Matt Besler attempted another one of his long throw-ins. The ball sailed into the box, and Crew defender Julius James, attempting to head the ball out of danger, deflected the ball into Columbus' own goal, giving Sporting a 2-1 advantage.
It was a lucky play, no doubt, but it was also a very good throw-in from Besler, who has turned into a real threat in those situations.
The own goal would prove to be enough for Kansas City to notch three points, although it did take a very nifty save from Jimmy Nielsen on a Andres Mendoza shot in the 85th minute.
Finally, Sporting's defense held firm for the waning moments of the match, as they were able to hold on, and Kansas City was vaulted into first place in the Eastern Conference at 42 points.
Simply put; this was a huge, huge, huge result for Sporting Kansas City. You have to beyond happy with the team securing three points, despite how much pressure was involved, and the fact that Sporting didn't exactly have their best game.
Tonight, a little luck was enough, and I have no problem with that.
Next up for Sporting Kansas City are the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium. The match will give Sporting a chance to pad their point total as they head towards the end of the regular season.