Preview: SKC and Columbus to rattle the Eastern table

Sporting Kansas City vs Columbus Crew, July 28

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SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs COLUMBUS CREW
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
July 28, 2012 (WEEK 21, MLS Game #201)
8:30 pm ET / 7:30 pm CT (KSMO; FS-OH)

Sporting Kansas City will be looking to regain their home form when they play host to the Columbus Crew in a crucial Eastern Conference clash on Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting haven’t scored at home in three games, coming off a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution last weekend. The Crew put an end to their two-game slide last weekend, knocking off D.C. United 1-0 at home.

REFEREE: David Gantar. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Jeff Muschik; 4th: Leszek Stalmach
MLS Career: 11 games; FC/gm: 27.3; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 6; pens: 1

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE HERE (PDF)

INJURY REPORT: SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); GK Jon Kempin (R ankle fracture); DF Chance Myers (groin strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Teal Bunbury (oral surgery) … COLUMBUS CREW -- OUT: FW Tommy Heinemann (L knee surgery); GK William Hesmer (R hip surgery); MF Kirk Urso (R adductor tendonitis); DF Rich Balchan (sports hernia rehab); MF Bernardo Anor (L knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: MF Milovan Mirosevic (L adductor strain); DF Chad Marshall (R ankle impingment); QUESTIONABLE: MF Danny O'Rourke (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: KC: Roger Espinoza (Honduras, Olympic Games)

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Julio Cesar, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers, Jimmy Nielsen, Paulo Nagamura … CLB: Bernardo Anor, Tony Tchani, Sebastian Miranda

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (44 meetings): Sporting 19 wins (2 shootout), 66 goals … Crew 20 wins (0 shootout), 72 goals … Ties 5
AT COLUMBUS (20 meetings): Sporting 10 wins (1 shootout), 32 goals … Crew 8 wins (0 shootout), 34 goals … Ties 2
FUTURE MATCH: 10/7: Columbus Crew vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4 p.m. ET
•The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury scored to give Sporting a 2-0 win on July 14 at Crew Stadium.
•The teams have split their two meetings each of the last two seasons.
•Sporting won, 2-1, in the first meeting at Livestrong Sporting Park last Sept. 28 – ending a three-year Columbus winning streak in K.C (all three meetings ever at CommunityAmerica Ballpark).
•Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. CLB: P5 W3 L2 T0 … Robert Warzycha vs. KC: P9 W6 L3 T0

LAST MEETING (MLS)
7/14: CLB 0, KC 2 (Peterson 6; Bunbury 82)
•The combination of Peterson and Peterson put Sporting into the lead in the sixth minute. Peterson Joseph threaded a perfect through-ball between three defenders near the top of the box for Jacob Peterson, and he cleanly slotted home past goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
•SKC put the game away with eight minutes remaining. On a quick counter after a midfield interception, Kei Kamara slid a centering pass for Teal Bunbury to drive home from the heart of the area.
•COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-2): Andy Gruenebaum - Josh Williams (Olman Vargas 80), Chad Marshall, Eric Gehrig, Bernardo Anor - Eddie Gaven, Tony Tchani (Cole Grossman 76), Chris Birchall, Justin Meram - Jairo Arrieta (Dilly Duka 62), Emilio Renteria.
•SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Paulo Nagamura, Roger Espinoza - Kei Kamara, Peterson Joseph (Michael Thomas 72), Jacob Peterson (C.J. Sapong 38) - Soony Saad (Teal Bunbury 52).

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City had their home winless streak extended to three games, playing to a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting now have 37 points from 21 matches, now in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis was credited with six saves on the evening, his best coming in the second half when he denied a snap header from Jacob Peterson with a sprawling fingertip save.
•Sporting 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen made three saves on the night, his best coming early on when he parried a powerful header from Ryan Guy on a corner kick.
•Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made three changes to the team that went down to a 2-1 defeat by the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Graham Zusi, Bobby Convey and C.J. Sapong came into the team, in place of Michael Thomas, Peterson Joseph and Teal Bunbury.
•SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Michael Harrington (Lawrence Olum 90), Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Paulo Nagamura, Jacob Peterson - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Bobby Convey (Michael Thomas 70) - C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 87).
 

HIGHLIGHTS: SKC v NE

TEAM NEWS
•Sporting have now gone three consecutive home games without scoring a goal – the last two scoreless draws.
•“It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “It’s not from a lack of opportunities, either. I think we’ve created plenty of chances. It’s all about sticking them in the back of the net now.”
•Said Kei Kamara: “The goals are going to come, but it’s been tough at home. We’ve just got to keep going forward. At least we didn’t lose all the points from this game, so we’ve just got to move forward to the next home game.”
•Sporting have kept clean sheets in three of their last four games, and Jimmy Nielsen was credited with his ninth shutout in the New England match, giving him the league lead.
•“When you make a clean sheet, you’re guaranteed at least a point,” Nielsen said. “When we couldn’t put in the goals today – all right, we get one point. It’s better than nothing. But I’m struggling to stand here being satisfied today. Not happy.”
•Bobby Convey made his first start since May 19, missing eight matches entirely before coming on as a substitute at midweek in the Houston match.
•“What he brings to the game is a real intelligence and great service,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “He had some very good service in the game, maybe a little off on one or two, but he’s a dangerous player for us. I have to be careful with him, [but] I really wanted him to go more because he was dangerous.”
•Said Convey: “I’d only played 10 minutes in two months. I’m just happy to be back out there. Obviously, this game was a little bit slower than normal because of the heat, but I feel pretty good and I think we’ll be fine going forward.”
•With Convey in the lineup, Jacob Peterson moved from the flank to a deeper-lying central midfield spot.
•Lawrence Olum was also a late substitute, his first appearance since leaving the June 29 match after just 19 minutes because of injury.
•“I feel good," he said. "The medical staff took good care of me while I was nursing my injury. I should be 100 percent by the next league game.”
•On Tuesday, Sporting dropped a 3-0 decision to Montpellier Herault SC of the French Ligue 1 in a friendly at Livestrong Park.
•Here’s the SKC team: Eric Kronberg; Kevin Ellis, Konrad Warzycha, Lawrence Olum (Michael Harrington 59), Neven Markovic; Julio Cesar (Paulo Nagamura 76), Peterson Joseph, Michael Thomas; Dom Dwyer (Bobby Convey 55, Kyle Miller 81), Soony Saad, Korede Aiyegbusi (C.J. Sapong 67)

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew put a halt to their two-game losing skid, defeating D.C. United 1-0 on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points from 18 games.

LAST MATCH
•The Crew hit for the game's lone goal a minute after the halftime break. From the midfield stripe, Jairo Arrieta held off a challenge and slipped the ball through to Chris Birchall off a well-timed run. Birchall dribbled into the left side of the box and connected on a low left-footed strike from 10 yards out.
•Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made four changes to the team that fell 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City at Crew Stadium. Sebastian Miranda and Carlos Mendes came into the back four for Eric Gehrig and Bernardo Anor, and Cole Grossman and Dilly Duka came into the midfield in place of Tony Tchani and Emilio Renteria.

HIGHLIGHTS: CLB v DC

•COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Carlos Mendes, Chad Marshall (Julius James 76), Josh Williams - Chris Birchall, Cole Grossman - Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka (Ethan Finlay 74), Justin Meram - Jairo Arrieta (Eric Gehrig 89).

TEAM NEWS
•;Midfielder Chris Birchall started his fifth game in a row for the Crew, his sixth appearance for the club, and netted his first goal in his fourth season in MLS.
•“He’s a box-to-box guy for us,” defender Josh Williams said. “He’s someone who links passes and is always going to put in the hard work. For him to get the goal he deserves it for all the hard work he puts in.”
•;Jairo Arrieta was deployed as a lone striker, with Eddie Gaven playing underneath and Dilly Duka and Justin Meram on the flanks. He recorded his first MLS assist on the goal.
•“Arrieta did a very good job holding the ball for us,” Warzycha said. “That’s why Dilly or Meram were a little more effective because they were higher on the field. We also had some good combinations in the middle. Cole Grossman and Birchall, especially in the first half, there were some very good sequences.”
•Duka was making his first start since May 26, his fourth of the season which has been twice interrupted by injury.
•I felt comfortable given my previous injury. I went into this game confident and I’m really happy we got the result.” Duka said. “ … I played left midfielder in the first half and I was rotating to right midfield with Justin [Meram]. I think there is a good mood on the team. Everyone’s just working hard, supporting each other.”
•Said goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum: “He’s fun to watch. He brings an element to the team I felt was lacking, a little creativity, a little bit of deception.”
•There was an injury concern late as center back Chad Marshall was forced with a quarter-hour to go with an ankle injury.
•“Absolutely, with this season right now, I am obviously more concerned,” Warzycha said. “It seems like every game we pick up another injury that keeps players a few weeks from playing.”
•After playing at right back and in central defense over the course of the season, Josh Williams played left back vs. United.
•“We have a lot of depth at that position.  It’s pretty seamless for any number of those guys, in any number of combinations to play in those spots,” said Gruenebaum. “There are some things we need to continue to work on, getting used to each other too. We’re managing on the go and we were able to post another shutout.”
•On Tuesday, the Crew defeated Stoke City FC of the English Premier League 2-1 in a friendly at Crew Stadium. Homegrown players Aaron Horton and Ben Speas scored late to lift the Crew, the game-winner coming just three minutes from time.