About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC did not have the best weekend in New England this past weekend, losing 2-0 in two stoppage times goals and losing Aurelien Collin to a red card in the process. This will force Lawrence Olum to start at centerback with Besler, leaving Erik Palmer-Brown as the only centerback backup if one of the two gets hurt. Other than that, Sporting Kansas City will have a full strength lineup, including Eric Kronberg continuing to get the start over Andy Gruenebaum playing his former team.
Columbus had a fantastic start to the 2014 season but have gone a bit stagnant as of late, losing once and earning three 1-1 draws in their past four matches. Regardless, they are a very strong team with the danger of Higuain and Arietta up top always a threat to score. They also have a road goal differential of +4 and are undefeated away from Columbus, making them a very scary team to face for Sporting Kansas City.
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Lawrence Olum
Lawrence Olum will play a pivotal part in this matchup against Columbus. He will be charged with stopping the dangerous attack of Columbus as he stands in for Aurelien Collin. Olum has shown he can step in before when he came into the MLS Cup final and played 110+ minutes for Uri Rosell. Olum can rise to the occassion, even against a great midfield like Real Salt Lake's. However centerback is different then Rosell's holding midfield spot and that Crew attack is very strong. His play may determine how this game goes for the home side.
Columbus Crew- Federico Higuain
With the 4-4-1-1 that Columbus likes to play, Federico Higuain can be dangerous in so many ways. He can either set up Arietta or Oduro in front of him to score or he can wait for his opportunity as a withdrawn forward to poach a ball and get it past Kronberg. With Lawrence Olum playing, Higuain has the opportunity to really own this game through the middle of the defense and to make Sporting Kansas City pay throughout this matchup. His ability to thread the ball through the middle will play a large part in how Columbus fairs this match.
Why They Will Win
Sporting Kansas City
While Columbus' front line remains an ever present threat, their play in the past four matches indicates that they are able to be held down, scoring three goals in four matches. As long as Sporting Kansas City keeps the ball in the midfield and does not allow the Crew to get a run from their two forwards then they should be able to keep the pressure up and to force the Crew's backline to break down and to get a goal or two. Yes, Lawrence Olum playing does not give us as much confidence as Aurelien Collin but he is serviceable and Sporting KC's midfield play may declare it a moot point.
As we have seen before, one of the things about Sporting KC's high pressured attack is that when a team has experienced and skilled forwards, they can make Sporting KC pay on the counter. Any time Sporting KC takes a corner kick, fans are going to be hoping that they don't send it up to Arietta or Higuain because that could mean doom for Sporting KC in this match. As long as the Crew sit back a bit and wait for their opportunity to strike, they should have no problem scoring in this match.
Sporting KC: Kronberg - Myers, Olum, Besler, Sinovic - Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber - Peterson, Dwyer, Zusi
Columbus Crew (From Patrick Murphy): Steve Clark - Josh Williams-Giancarlo Gonzalez - Michael Parkhurst - Waylon Francis Hector Jimenez - Wil Trapp - Tony Tchani - Bernardo Anor, Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta
Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Columbus Crew
This will be a high-scoring affair with both sides getting lots of opportunities and lots of open play, especially in the second half.