About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC have been enjoying the returns of players from various absences, winning three out of their last four matches. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler fit right back into the team against Montreal, Benny Feilhaber looks to be over his injury and Toni Dovale is back from red card suspension. With a clean bill of health, Sporting KC is able to rotate players in heavy match congestion weeks such as this week. Due to playing three matches in seven days, we might see a rotated attack tonight with the midfield and defense staying the same because of depth issues.
The Columbus Crew started off the season winning three straight, but have only won one game since then. Their attack leaves a lot to be desired, tied for the third least goals scored in the entire league despite having Federico Higuain at the top. Where they excel, however, is their defense, led by Costa Rican internationals Waylon Francis and Giancarlo Gonzales, plus Michael Parkhurst. They'll be a tough defensive test for Sporting KC.
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Matt Besler
With the transfer window swirling around Besler, it's comforting to see him anchoring the back line just like normal. Coming off a fantastic performance at the World Cup, Besler is better than ever and will be a big part in stopping Columbus tonight. They're already having problems scoring goals, so going against a defense lead by Matt Besler is really going to hamper the Crew's chances on offense. There's already a lot of extracurricular rumors surrounding him, it'll be nice just to seem him defending as normal.
Columbus Crew- Giancarlo Gonzales
Gonzales is in a similar position as Matt Besler. He is coming off a great performance with Costa Rica at the World Cup where he helped anchor a defense that knocked Italy and England out of the group. He stood out of the entire World Cup and now he is back to help the Crew defense against Sporting Kansas City. He'll be a huge part in shutting down Dom Dwyer and not allowing the Sporting KC forward any space to get a shot off. If he can shut down the middle, Sporting KC will be forced out wide which will make it harder for them to score and get a win.
Why They'll Win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City has the defense to shut down this lackluster Crew attack, all they need to do is turn that defense into offense. Sporting KC should be able to stop the Crew then turn around and send the attack forward. The Crew have been a tough team to score on in recent years but the state of the current teams makes it possible for Sporting KC to play with their patented high pressure system and not have to worry as much about a counter attack. Sporting KC was able to do it in their 2-0 win over the Crew earlier this season, so there's no reason they can't do it tonight.
The Crew's staunch defense, anchored by the returning Costa Rican stars, is going to be playing much better than they did in their 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls this weekend. They can have a similar philosophy as Sporting KC, who is going to be using their defense as an offense. With Higuain as a threat up top, they can keep Sporting KC out of goal range while forcing them to keep him in mind. Sporting KC has the tendency to get caught too far forward on a counter, so if the Crew keep Sporting KC away from goal they might be able to spring Higuain on a counter.
Sporting Kansas City: Gruenebaum; Juliao, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Olum, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Dovale, Dwyer, Zusi.
Columbus Crew (From Pat Murphy): Steve Clark, Chad Barson, Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis, Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, Adam Bedell.