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Sporting Kansas City vs Columbus Crew SC: Three Questions with Massive Report

We talked to Pat Murphy of Massive Report to get some insight into the Columbus Crew team that Sporting KC takes on Saturday.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Testament asks Massive Report...

1) Our old friend Kei Kamara just keeps on scoring and is leading the race for the Golden Boot with 18 goals. Can he keep up that pace and finish ahead of Giovinco? How many will he get? And just how many new Chipotles have had to open in Columbus to accommodate him?

I honestly don't see why Kamara can't keep scoring as long as he stays healthy. Right now he's getting good service each week and he really has bonded with his teammates. As you likely know, his athleticism is unbelievable and he's finally put it all together. Or he's at least on a team where he's the central striker and lots of chances are created.

Can he stay ahead of Sebastian Giovinco? That's a tough question. Giovinco is probably the MVP this year and likely won't let up scoring either. They may both deny it, but I'm sure they're keeping an eye on what each other does each week. So far Kei has kept atop the charts almost every week so I don't see why that won't continue unless Giovinco just goes nuts one game.

In terms of how many he will get, let's say he ties the club record of 26 goals in a season. He already tied second-most in team history in a year with his goal on Wednesday. As for the Chipotles there is now one on every corner in Columbus. It makes it hard to eat anywhere else.

2) The Crew have more goals than anyone in the East at 40, but they've conceded 41 times. What exactly is the defense missing?

That is the million dollar question. Last year, Crew SC were a solid defensive team given their attacking style. Even after the departure of Giancarlo Gonzalez, the team still only allowed 42 goals all season. As you pointed out, they are very close to allowing that with nine matches to go.

It has been a comedy of errors for the Black & Gold. At times it's bad bounces, other times it's mistakes. The team is awful defending set pieces. Too often this year one center back has been caught tracking too far up the field and the opponent has been able to exploit the space in behind (see New York City FC's first goal on Wednesday). It's been a frustration for all the players and fans as well.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter made two defensive additions during the transfer window, bringing in Harrison Afful at right back and Gastón Suaro at center back. Afful made his debut on Wednesday and looked pretty good in 60 minutes. Suaro was expected to arrive today. Will these two be enough to help the team defensively this year? We'll see.

3) Sporting KC have won the last 5 games between these two teams, but SKC go to Columbus tired and beat up having conceded 8 goals their last two matches. Is that high scoring offense from the Crew to going to pile it on and end the streak?

Crew SC has been a free scoring team this year and I don't expect that to stop this week. With a quick turnaround, there could be some fatigued legs, but that shouldn't stop the team's offense from getting the job done. Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram, and Federico Higuain were a dangerous group a year ago. Now you throw in Kamara and it's hard to imagine a team that can contain the Black & Gold.

With that said, who knows what will happen in terms of results. With Kansas City conceding the way they have, I would expect Columbus to score at least two, but that doesn't mean this defense won't give up at least that many. Columbus has lacked a killer instinct throughout much of the year, so it would only make sense they couldn't kill off this trend.


I'm awful at predictions, but if you'd like one I'll give it to you. Let's say 2-1 Columbus.

Lineup:
Steve Clark
Harrison Afful-Michael Parkhurst-Tyson Wahl-Waylon Francis
Ethan Finlay-Tony Tchani-Wil Trapp-Justin Meram
Federico Higuain
Kei Kamara

Afful made his debut on Wednesday and is still working on fitness after joining the team recently. He could be taken out due the short week and replaced by Hector Jimenez or Chad Barson. Emanuel Pogatetz was out last night and likely will miss this one with a knee injury.
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Massive Report asks The Blue Testament

1. Well that was a rough Wednesday night for SKC. The good new is, your game finished before our's, due to a weather delay, so you have a little bit more rest. The bad news is, well the score. What the heck happened?

Well we knew that was going to be a rough one, but nobody expected that. Not only have they been playing a lot of matches and dealing with several injuries, but the win over Vancouver really took a lot out of them I think. They all must have been pretty emotionally drained after that thrilling comeback. Zusi missing up front is a blow but I think what we really missed was Soni Mustivar from his holding mid slot.
That being said, it is almost surprising things like this haven't happened before. We have been starting rookies in full back spots and Kevin Ellis had to become the starting CB. Now, they have been performing admirably, FAR beyond expectations. But still Dia has his fair share of bad moments, as does Ellis (who isn't even a real CB).
This team has great depth and PV has them all in the right mentality but that San Jose match was just a perfect storm. Can be considered bad obviously, but I like that they have a quick turnaround so they can put that loss behind them.

2. It's been another solid year for Sporting after the move over to the Western Conference. As Crew SC fans may not see your team as often, give us a bit of a breakdown of how the season has played out. What's been the team's strength's? Weaknesses?

There was quite a bit of turnover in the off season. A lot of new faces and people that needed to get acclimated/figure out the league/learn how to be a pro etc etc. It took a while for the team to find itself and for guys to settle into their positions. The highly touted Luis Marin was brought in from Chile to be the next great KC keeper, but he was benched and then left the team to be with his family. So, the former MLS pool keeper Tim Melia got a shot and never looked back. The guy has been nothing short of amazing for us. Soni Mustivar making the holding midfield position his own was also key to the success.
Perhaps the team's greatest strength has been depth! They've been hit by so many injuries and call-ups the past two seasons, the ideal starting XI is almost never seen. Vermes shows great confidence in his back up players and rookies. Everyone knows their role and what is expected of them. He has had three rookies on the field at the same multiple times this year.
But for a more concrete strength, Sporting KC is seeing a lot of success from set pieces this season. At 12, they lead all of MLS. This is because KC has Benny Feilhaber and nobody else does.
I am inclined to call height a weakness, because this is definitely a short team. But at the same time, little guys like Dom Dwyer and Kevin Ellis are fantastic at getting their head on the ball despite their size.
I think defense has to be a weakness right now. They are great playing together as a team, but there are still some weak spots that can and have been broken down very easily. 8 goals in the last 2 matches doesn't bode well.

3. Benny Feilhaber has been Mr. Everything for SKC this season, leading the team in both goals (8) and assists (13). He will miss this game with a red card suspension so where does head coach Peter Vermes turn?

I know I was just talking about how great the depth of this team is, but this is just simply not the same team without Benny out there. He was rested the first half at RSL and nothing went right at all (He came on and immediately scored that match). There is nobody on the bench that can play the CAM properly right now. New signing Jordi Quintilla has just arrived and provides depth there, but can be of no help this match.
It will be very interesting to see what Vermes does. Krisztian Nemeth has played CAM previously in his career and experimented there in preseason. It is possible Peterson could move into his winger spot and he could shift into Benny's spot.

Predictions
Melia, Myers, Ellis, Besler, Dia, Okugo, Nagamura, Nemeth, Peterson, Dwyer, Zusi

Sporting KC 1 - 1 Columbus Crew SC