KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For a team looking to snap a three-match goal drought at home, Sporting Kansas City couldn’t be facing a worse possible opponent. Or could they?
The Columbus Crew come into Saturday night’s match at Livestrong Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) having given up just 19 goals – tied with Sporting for fewest in the league – in 18 outings. That number tells only part of the story, though.
Sporting have played three more games than the Crew, for one thing – and for the other, the last time the two sides met, Sporting won 2-0 in Columbus.
How much that July 14 result is expected to boost Sporting in Saturday’s match, though, depends on whom you ask.
“I don’t give a lot of credibility to the last time that we played them,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said Friday, during the team’s weekly news conference. “They’re going to come here with a different mindset. They may be at a time when they’re finding themselves a little differently, so now they’re on the upswing. So we’ve got expectations of what they’re going to bring and how they’re going to play, but more importantly we’re going after the way we want to play in that game and try to make them handle us.”
WATCH: Sporting down Columbus, 2-0, on July 14
What Vermes does expect is for the Crew to bunker in, look for counters if possible, and play for a point on the road.
“That’s what we’re preparing for,” he said. “If they wind up coming to play, and open the game up – let’s go. That’s what we want in every aspect. We want it for the game, for how we want to play, and from an entertainment value. But we’re preparing that they’re going to drop off, kind of bunker like everyone else.”
Winger Jacob Peterson, who scored Sporting’s first goal in that away victory, also expects things to be different this time around.
“I think they’ll approach the game a bit differently, maybe sit back a little bit,” Peterson told MLSsoccer.com after Friday’s training session. “But you never know. They’ve got some young guys up top who can run and can put you under pressure. We’ll look to get another win, but I don’t know if you can read too much into how they play at home vs. on the road.”
But striker Teal Bunbury, who closed out Sporting’s scoring against the Crew last time with an 82nd-minute goal, expects the lift from that result to carry over into Saturday’s rematch.
“We’ve scored at home before, so it’s not like it’s some crazy thing to be able to score at home,” Bunbury said. “We’ve just got to get back into our rhythm. I think we had to kind of change our style of play a bit, just because we had so many games in a short amount of time. I think we just need to go back to our old ways, pressuring teams more and trying to win the ball in their defensive third so we’re closer to goal.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.