Kansas City rolled into Columbus as one of Major League Soccer’s most explosive sides. The Crew, on the other hand, hadn’t given up a goal in three games.
In a matchup of extremes, defense trumped offense on a soggy, windswept night in central Ohio as Sporting (1-2-1) managed just two shots on goal and lost 1-0 to the resolute Crew.
“They do a good job of getting all 11 players behind the ball quickly,” manager Peter Vermes said in a phone interview following the match. “They just pack the zone. It was hard for us at times to get at them quickly just because of the numbers behind the ball.”
WATCH: Full match highlights
After scoring eight goals in three games to start the season and exhibiting an attacking panache uncommon on the road, Sporting came down to earth against a Columbus side determined to slow the game down and dictate pace.
When it was all over, the Crew did what they set out to do: stifle one of the league’s most dynamic attacks while setting a franchise record with their fourth consecutive shutout.
Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong found their space limited and opportunities curtailed as Kansas City never found their rhythm, struggling to consistently string passes together and combine in the final third.
Then, after 53 minutes of scoreless, and mostly unremarkable, play from both sides, Columbus’ Robbie Rogers took advantage of a momentary lapse to score the game’s lone goal. With Kansas City pinned in their own half, Rogers brought a diagonal ball down with his chest in the box and applied a sliding finish to the back post to give his side the full three points.
“We did a poor job of clearing the ball during the flurry of a couple of situations,” Vermes said. “We didn’t clear the zone, and Robbie Rogers did a good job of getting around and hitting the ball early.”
That goal sent the momentum careening in the Crew’s favor, and Sporting were lucky to keep the deficit at one as Jimmy Nielsen was forced into a point-blank kick save on Eddie Gaven before a second yellow and subsequent red card to Julio Cesar put the visitors down a man.
It was one of five cards shown to Kansas City, and a crippling blow to their comeback hopes on a night when scoring chances already were difficult to manufacture.
“It was hard being a man down,” Vermes said. “At this point, I have no idea for what. I thought the foul was going the other way. The guy pushed our guy from behind. Going down a man doesn’t help you by any means.”
In the end, it was the final blow to Sporting’s hopes of salvaging a result, leaving Vermes and his side with plenty to work on in the upcoming week.
“We just came up short,” he said.