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Sporting KC at Columbus Crew: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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Sporting KC have only one twice in their last eight games. Wins needed! Will they get one on the road?

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Sporting Kansas City v Columbus Crew Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Sporting KC @ Columbus Crew SC (#CLBvSKC)

Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM CT

ESPN | fuboTV (free trial)

At the beginning of the week Sporting Kansas City had an undefeated record against the much strong Eastern Conference. After Wednesday, they have a loss on their record. Granted, the record wasn’t that good with only two wins (2-1-6) but at least they hadn’t lost. Their road record is much worse (2-6-5) and the team will end their two game road stretch at MAPFRE Stadium in Ohio on Sunday.

They will be facing a curios Columbus Crew team. The Crew have lost 12 games this season compared to just six losses for SKC. However, they sit on 42 points compared to KC’s 40 points (though Sporting have two games in hand). The reason for the difference, Columbus plays to win. They don’t push for draws (they have a league low three draws) but they go for broke to win games. 10 of their 13 wins are at home including four straight at home and three wins in their last four games overall.

The good news for Kansas City is that they play quite well against Columbus (6-1-1 in their last eight) and pretty good on the road against them (3-1-1 in their last five at MAPFRE). That said, they didn’t fare as well in their last trip to Columbus, losing 3-2 back in 2015.

Another stat worth pointing out is one that keeps popping up game after game for SKC. The goals simply aren’t coming for Sporting KC. Over the season they’ve put the ball in the net just 31 times (18th best in the league). For comparison Columbus has scored 28 goals JUST AT HOME. On the season they have 42 goals (11th best in the league).

Those 28 home goals will be matched up against Sporting KC’s six (!) goals on the road. They haven’t scored on the road since the July 23rd game with Real Salt Lake and that was on a penalty kick. To find another road goal you have to go back to the game against the LA Galaxy on June 25th. Let’s not forget how terrible LA is, especially at home. Something has to change for the outcomes to change.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Cameron Porter (broken fibula and ligament damage in right ankle)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Columbus

OUT: Gaston Sauro (left PCL surgery), Ben Swanson (right ankle surgery)

QUESTIONABLE: Waylon Francis (left thigh strain), Niko Hansen (thigh injury), Artur (left thigh strain), Ola Kamara (left lower leg contusion)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None [Roger Espinoza suspended next yellow]

Columbus - None [Jonathan Mensah suspended next yellow]

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: W/D/L/W/L (7 Points)

Columbus - Last Five: L/W/D/W/W (10 Points)

Leading Scorers

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (7), Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber (5), Latif Blessing (3), Daniel Salloi, Ike Opara, Diego Rubio (2)
  • Columbus: Ola Kamara (14), Justin Meram (11), Federico Higuain (9)

Starting XI Predictions

Can we get back to the regular starting eleven? With a mid-week game in New York Diego Rubio found himself starting the game on the bench and Latif Blessing slide into the center forward role. No offense to Latif, who scored twice as a center forward against Orlando City earlier this year, but it seems like a bad fit for him. Rubio is still not that far removed from an ACL tear and the team probably don’t want to push it too hard. He has to start Sunday.

Because Latif was in the middle that caused Peter Vermes to half follow my advice and let Gerso go to the bench. Though when I advocated for that, I had Salloi and Blessing on the wings. Cristian Lobato got the start on the wing but he apparently didn’t get the memo that wingers play out wide. He constantly drifted into the middle of the pitch or sometimes even all the way to the wrong side cause the team to be very narrow an an even narrower pitch in Yankee Stadium.

While Salloi wasn’t super impressive, I don’t think it was him. Lobato and Blessing gave him no targets in the box. I still wouldn’t mind seeing him rest and Gerso remaining as a super sub (though he wasn’t very super on Wednesday).

The rest of the lineup should return to normal. The midfield is almost always unchanged, though Benny put in a hard shift against NYCFC and he could find himself coming off the bench and being replaced by Jimmy Medranda.

Most importantly the back line will be back together with the return of Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. Zusi is especially important because Saad Abdul-Salaam has been out of form for all of 2017 and found himself way out of position on the game winning goal by Jack Harrison. It stuns me that a 6’4” man can miss so many headers (though he missed with his boot on this particular play).

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Mustivar, Gerso, Lobato, Medranda, Abdul-Salaam, Palmer-Brown

With so many goals scored by Columbus at home, it seems very likely they’ll find a way to break through. They did score five goals over the last two meetings between these clubs. The defense of KC is really on point in 2017 despite a recent dip in form. Getting the boys back together could and should be the difference in the game.

The real question is will Sporting score a road goal? They are abysmal on the road but Columbus isn’t great at stopping goals. I think getting Rubio/Blessing/Gerso/Salloi more time together will just grow their chemistry. Add in Benny delivering the ball and it seems they’ll find the back of the net. The problem is they will probably need more than one goal to win.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

At some point SKC need three points instead of draws. They’ve lost two of the last three and are slipping in the race for a home playoff game. They have to finish at least fourth (they are currently third with games in hand -- which are useless without points). A top two spot has to be the goal though.

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? And what is your prediction for an outcome? Let us know in the comments.