Saturday, May 03, 2014

Early Battle at the Top of the East

Sporting Kansas City welcome the Columbus Crew to Sporting Park tomorrow for a Sunday afternoon game in a battle at the top of the Eastern Conference. Columbus sits on top of the East with 12 points while Sporting is one point back, sitting on 11.

Columbus comes into the game on the back of a their third straight 1-1 draw at home against the New York Red Bulls. They'll welcome back Bernardo Anor to the lineup after his suspension for a red card in the team's game against DC. The big key for Columbus though is Federico Higuain, he leads the Crew in goals with four so far on the season. Columbus hasn't been a team that has sat back in games this season, they've gone out and attacked more. So far it's been working pretty well for them under Gregg Berhalter, as the Crew have lost just once so far on the season.

KC meanwhile is struggling with injuries and suspensions right now. Aurelien Collin is suspended due to his red card that he picked up last week against New England. Lawrence Olum will be the player that will come in to replace him in the starting eleven. With Ike Opara out, 17 year old, Erik Palmer-Brown could make a game day roster for the first time, but he too is on the latest injury report. Further up the field the options are just as thin for KC. CJ Sapong has returned to practice but isn't going to play a part this weekend. Meanwhile, Sal Zizzo, who subbed out against the Revolution with a groin injury will also not play a part. That leaves KC thin on the wing for who plays opposite Graham Zusi. The likes of Toni Dovale, Jacob Peterson, or Soony Saad seem likely to get the call to replace Zizzo's spot in the eleven. Paulo Nagamura is off the injury report though and should be available for selection.

Myers - Olum - Besler - Sinovic
Rosell - Nagamura
Peterson - Dwyer - Zusi

Number to Remember - 1  - That's the number of wins that Columbus has over KC in the past seven games. The Crew have beaten KC just twice since the team rebranded in 2011.

Key Match Up - Oriol Rosell vs Federico Higuain - Higuain is going to try to sit between KC's back line and KC's holding midfielder, Rosell. That's the place that he's operated the best for the Crew. Sporting's Spanish midfielder is going to need to be very mindful of where the Argentine is headed.

PREDICTION - Sporting's goal scoring woes seemed to disappear two weeks ago against Montreal, but last week, KC's lack of scoring returned. Against a Crew team that likes to get forward, KC should be able to get their chances tomorrow, especially at home. The question is whether Sporting can take advantage of it. So far this season KC has continued their tradition of really failing to capitalize on the chances that they create. I'm still not convinced by KC's offense enough at this point of the season.

SKC - 1 (Zusi)
CLB - 1 (Higuain)

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