Sun, Oct 7
4:00 PM ET
Sporting KCSKC

Preview: Crew look to keep pace with home tilt vs. SKC

October 7, 2012 (WEEK 31, MLS Game #301)
4 p.m. ET (FS-OH; KSMO)

A massive match in the Eastern Conference playoff race is ahead on Sunday afternoon when the Columbus Crew play host to Sporting Kansas City at Crew Stadium. The Crew come into the match outside the top five in the division and the playoff spots, but trail Houston by just a single point following their late 3-2 win against Philadelphia last weekend. Sporting became the first East team to claim a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs with their 2-0 home win against Chicago last Friday night.


REFEREE: Mark Geiger. AR1 (bench): Joe Fletcher; AR2 (opposite): James Conlee; 4th: Hilario Grajeda

MLS Career: 101 games; FC/gm: 26.4; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 26; pens: 34


COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: FW Tommy Heinemann (L knee surgery); GK William Hesmer (R hip surgery); MF Bernardo Anor (L knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: DF Carlos Mendes (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Danny O'Rourke (L ankle sprain); DF Rich Balchan (R thigh contusion); PROBABLE: MF Dilly Duka (R calf contusion) …

SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: FW Teal Bunbury (L knee ACL tear); DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); QUESTIONABLE: GK Jon Kempin (R ankle sprain)


SUSPENDED: CLB: Danny O’Rourke (caution accumulation; through Oct. 7)

SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Julio Cesar, Paulo Nagamura
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Bernardo Anor, Chris Birchall, Tony Tchani, Sebastian Miranda, Dilly Duka, Justin Meram, Emilio Renteria … KC: Chance Myers, Jimmy Nielsen, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi

ALL-TIME (45 meetings): Crew 21 wins (0 shootout), 74 goals … Sporting 19 wins (2 shootout), 67 goals … Ties 5

  • AT COLUMBUS (24 meetings): Crew 12 wins (0 shootout), 38 goals … Sporting 9 wins (1 shootout), 34 goals … Ties 3
  • 2012 (MLS):  7/14: CLB 0, KC 2 (Peterson 6; Bunbury 82), 7/28: KC 1, CLB 2 (Kamara 8 – Arrieta 17, 34)
  • The teams have split their first two meetings this season, each winning on the other’s home ground. Goals from Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury gave Sporting a 2-0 win July 14 at Crew Stadium, then Jairo Arrieta scored twice in the 2-1 Columbus win two weeks later at Kansas City.
  • 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: P6 W3 L3 T0 … Robert Warzycha vs. KC: P10 W7 L3 T0

•    The home side opened the scoring in the eighth minute on a textbook set piece. Graham Zusi sent in a long free kick, and Kei Kamara leaped and headed it past Andy Gruenebaum from the center of the box.
•    But the Crew equalized in the 17th minute through new arrival Jairo Arrieta after a nice through ball from Josh Williams. Arrieta took the pass in the penalty area, shrugged off Lawrence Olum’s attempted tackle and fired past Jimmy Nielsen from 12 yards.
•    Then in the 34th minute, Arrieta corralled Zusi’s errant back pass in space in Columbus’ attacking third and sent a blast in from distance to make it 2-1.
•    SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-1-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum (Neven Markovic 84), Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Paulo Nagamura, Jacob Peterson (Korede Aiyegbusi 71) - Graham Zusi - Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, Bobby Convey (Julio Cesar 64).
•    COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Carlos Mendes, Chad Marshall, Josh Williams - Chris Birchall, Cole Grossman (sent off 95+) - Justin Meram (Ethan Finlay 72), Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka (Tony Tchani 84) - Jairo Arrieta (Julius James 98+).

The Columbus Crew came back for a crucial victory in the playoff hunt, scoring a late goal for a 3-2 win against Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points from 31 games, one point behind fifth-place Houston.

•    The Crew were ahead at halftime thanks to a pair of quick goals late in the opening stanza, both from Jairo Arrieta. First, in the 45th minute, Arrieta got on the end of a drilled cross from right back Sebastián Miranda, chested the ball to the ground six yards left of goal and finished neatly.

WATCH: Crew top Union late

•    Then, five minutes into stoppage time, a long goal kick from Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was misjudged by the Union defense and Arrieta quick to gather it at the top of the penalty area before unleashing another left-footed shot that went past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
•    Union pulled a goal back in the 65th minute when Danny Cruz converted a penalty kick awarded after Gruenebaum took down substitute Antoine Hoppenot. Then another Union substitute, Jack McInerney, got on the end of a pass from fellow second-half addition Roger Torres in the 86th minute to tie the score, sticking his foot out and pushing the ball inside the left post.
•    But barely a minute later, the Crew hit for the winner. After the ball pinged around the Union penalty area, a sliding pass from Josh Williams found Milovan Mirosevic in front of goal and he slotted home, and despite a hint of offside, the goal stood for the late winner.
•    Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made one change to the team that saw the Chicago Fire come back for a 2-1 win at Toyota Park. Chris Birchall came into the midfield for Emilio Renteria.
•    COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James (Eric Gehrig 80), Josh Williams - Danny O'Rourke, Milovan Mirosevic - Chris Birchall, Federico Higuain, Eddie Gaven (Justin Meram 86) - Jairo Arrieta (Emilio Renteria 66).

•    The win was the fifth in a row at Crew Stadium for Columbus, and extended their current home unbeaten streak to seven games. Two of their final three games will be at Crew Stadium.
•    “I think we responded pretty quickly and that was the key. Giving up two goals like that in the second half is not something we usually do, but it was a very important game for us and for Philadelphia obviously,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “We knew a loss for them would have been the end of the playoffs, and sometimes there are games like this. It was a battle on the field.”
•    Said goalscorer Milovan Mirosevic: “Maybe if the game finishes like that, we’re out of the playoffs already. We have to be more careful.”
•    With the full three points, the Crew maintained contact with the Houston Dynamo in the chase for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Dynamo still lead the Crew by one point with three games remaining for both teams.
•    “We're not going to be safe and secure until we take care of our business each and every game and control our own destiny,” said goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum. “We took a big step tonight. Obviously, giving up two goals to tie the game isn't acceptable at home, and we're going to have to work that out. A win is a win, and we'll take it and we'll move on.”
•    Jairo Arrieta recorded his third two-goal game since coming to MLS. Arrieta has a goal or an assist over the last four games, with three goals and two assists in that stretch.
•    “I think he was very effective. He scored two goals in the first half and had another chance in the second half. We debated whether or not to take him off. He was limping more and more and we had fresh guys on the bench, so we decided to put them on the field,” said Warzycha.
•    For a second consecutive match and the fourth time in the last five games, the Crew allowed multiple goals in a game. They are 2-3-0 in that stretch.
•    “You look at the win first, but there’s definitely stuff we need to sort out,” center back Chad Marshall said. “We didn’t play well in the second half. You don’t want to give up a two-goal lead for sure.” Added Josh Williams: “The first half of the year we were one of the tops in goal against. It seems like we’ve been on a constant slide here. This week we’ll work to shore up the back line.”
•    Both assists the Crew recorded came from fullbacks – Sebastian Miranda on the opener, Williams on the winner.
•    “I think it's natural for players to go forward. We don't stop them from doing it. On the last play I think we were desperate, because we needed to push forward as far as we could. We had to push for the goal, we only had four minutes, and we didn't know there were going to be six minutes of extra time,” said Warzycha. “I’m happy that [Josh Williams] went forward. That’s not something we designed for the game. If there is space to move forward, we ask for the defender to do that every single time.”
•    With Dilly Duka held out of the team because of a calf injury, Chris Birchall made his first start in four games, since Sept. 15, on the right side of midfield.

Sporting Kansas City clinched their berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs, defeating the Chicago Fire 2-0 on Friday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting are in first place in the Eastern Conference, with 58 points from 31 matches.

•    Sporting took the lead in the 11th minute. Kei Kamara sent a cross into the penalty area from the right corner, and Graham Zusi, crossing from the left side, one-timed the ball into the lower right corner.

WATCH: Sporting KC handle Fire

•    The Fire went a man down when left back Gonzalo Segares drew his second yellow, and Chicago manager Frank Klopas was also shown a straight red by referee Chris Penso.
•    Zusi applied the coup de grace six minutes into second-half stoppage time. As Chicago pushed up in search of the equalizer, he juked his way into position, then fired just inside the right post from the top of the area.
•    Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen had to make just one save all night, an easy stop of Dominic Oduro's set-piece header in the 68th minute.
•    Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made three changes to the team that gained a scoreless draw with the Montréal Impact at Stade Saputo. Chance Myers came into the back four for Michael Harrington, and Paulo Nagamura and Roger Espinoza entered the side in place of Oriol Rosell and Jacob Peterson.
•    SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-3-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic – Paulo Nagamura, Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza - Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Graham Zusi.

•    Sporting maintained their advantage atop the Eastern Conference table and homefield advantage throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs in the East, and also maintained contact with the San Jose Earthquakes in the bid for the Supporters’ Shield and the chance to host MLS Cup.
•    “Every time we're put in a position where we've had to get certain results, we've done a really good job of getting them,” KC manager Peter Vermes said. “I like our style. I like the fact that we're locked in. I like the fact that no matter who we put in there or take out, those guys all have a connection to the game. The performances have been good, but the results are what we've been very good at getting at the right times.”
•    Sporting have not allowed a goal in three consecutive games, extended their current undefeated run to nine league games in the win, 10 in all competitions (including the win in the U.S. Open Cup Final).
•    “We have the least amount of goals scored against us in the league and that’s a commitment to the way that the guys will compete for every role on the field. You can say that, but it’s another thing to do that, and you can watch the guys, they really do that,” said Vermes. “It’s not just at home, but it’s also away and that’s a great attribute for a team to have, especially when you’re going into the end of the season and into playoffs.”
•    It was the 14th shutout for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, tied for the second-highest single season total in MLS history (KC’s Tony Meola had 16 in 2000).
•    “This is one of those games again where I absolutely cannot take any credit for the shutout,” said Nielsen. “We did an awesome job defensively, and I thought we were very smart with the ball.”
•    Graham Zusi hit for his second career two-goal game, his first having come last Aug. 17 vs. Portland. Zusi is still tied for the MLS lead with 14 assists with LA’s Landon Donovan.
•    Zusi has two goals and two assists over the last five games, and has been involved with a goal or an assist in nine of SKC’s last 13 goals.
•    “The great thing about this team is anyone can take the spotlight at any time,” said forward Kei Kamara. “We took the pressure off each other tonight. With Zusi being known as somebody who usually sets things up for us, [the other team] doesn’t always expect him to score goals. But he’s a great finisher.”
•    Though he was available, center back Aurelien Collin was held out of the team, his spot in central defense filled by Lawrence Olum for a second consecutive match.
•    “[Olum’s] biggest contribution to the game for us all the time is his reading of the game defensively and his ability to plug the holes, and then he has the other added benefit which is he’s fantastic on the field, whether it’s in the middle of the field or on set pieces and he was very good defensively for us for sure,” Vermes said. “I like the way he played so we continued with the same thing, and obviously another shutout, so he’s doing well.
•    Said Nielsen: “He's very calm with the ball. Never panics. He's very good playing the ball out of the back, he's very good in the back. It's a very, very good situation for a coach to have three good center backs. He proves, every time he gets thrown in there, that he can handle this level easily.”


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