Sporting KC ends road trip Sunday in Ohio

A pair of MLS charter members will lock horns Sunday in a nationally televised clash on ESPN and ESPN Deportes as Sporting Kansas City (10-6-10, 40 points) visits Columbus Crew SC (13-12-3, 42 points) at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Kickoff is set for noon with local radio calls on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish). Additional in-game updates will be available on the Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app

Manager Peter Vermes’ men will be just four days removed from a 1-0 setback at New York City FC on Wednesday at rainy Yankee Stadium.

Playing their first match in 18 days, Sporting Kansas City conceded an 84th-minute goal to Jack Harrison as NYCFC claimed its first win in the series. The result ended Sporting KC’s run of eight straight games unbeaten against Eastern Conference opponents and marked the ninth time the club had been shut out away from home in 2017.

Despite Wednesday’s loss, Sporting Kansas City stays within touching distance of first place in a crowded Western Conference table.

Depending on other results this weekend, a victory over Columbus could vault Vermes’ side back to the summit.

Furthermore, Sporting KC remains on pace to finish with one of the best goals against averages in MLS history. Led by goalkeeper Tim Melia, the club has conceded just 0.77 goals per game – a stingy clip that would finish only behind the 2010 Real Salt Lake outfit (0.67).

On the opposite sideline, fourth-year head coach Gregg Berhalter has elevated in-form Columbus to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Crew SC’s 13 wins this season are tied for third-most in MLS, a feat that includes four straight victories as MAPFRE Stadium. Major League Soccer’s first soccer-specific venue has been a house of horrors for Western Conference visitors this year, as Crew SC boast a perfect 4-0 record in interconference home games.

A competent Columbus attack is bolstered by the explosive triumvirate of Ola Kamara, Justin Meram and Federico Higuain. The trio has combined for 34 of the club’s 42 goals this season, with Kamara’s 14 strikes leading the way.

Meram has chipped in 11 goals and seven assists, while veteran playmaker Higuain has added nine goals and seven assists. The midfield is anchored by 24-year-old homegrown Wil Trapp, who is the league’s most prolific passer and a vital cog to the Black and Gold’s possession-oriented system.

These teams last met on July 3, 2016, in a five-goal thriller at Children’s Mercy Park. Kamara fired the visitors ahead halfway through the first period before Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi struck in quick succession shortly after the restart. Kamara restored parity in the 75th minute, but a 91st-minute header from Matt Besler gave Sporting KC a dramatic 3-2 triumph.

Sporting Kansas City is 6-1-1 in its last eight meetings with Crew SC, the lone loss coming 3-2 when the sides last met at MAPFRE Stadium in August 2015. Vermes’ team is a respectable 3-1-1 in its last five trips to Columbus dating back to 2012.

With September’s FIFA window in the past, Sunday’s match will see both teams welcome back a host of international players.

Defensive mainstays Besler and Zusi will be available for Sporting Kansas City, while New Zealand midfielder and Lebanon forward Soony Saad have also returned from national team duty. For Columbus, Iraq’s Meram and Ghanaian defenders Harrison Afful and Jonathan Mensah are also in contention to feature.

Sporting Kansas City approaches Sunday with a clean bill of health. Forward Cameron Porter suffered a season-ending ankle injury in early August and is the only name on the club’s injury report.

Crew SC, meanwhile, will be without defender Gaston Sauro (knee) and midfielder Ben Swanson (ankle), both of whom are set to miss the rest of 2017. Defender Waylon Francis (thigh strain) is also unlikely to feature.

– Story from Sporting KC

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