Preview: Sporting Continues MLS Campaign in Columbus
A pair of MLS originals seeking summertime momentum will lock horns Sunday when Sporting Kansas City (3-5-7, 16 points) travels to face Columbus Crew SC (5-9-2, 17 points) at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
The interconference battle will kick off at 4:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 4 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. The contest will also be joined in progress on FOX Sports Kansas City upon conclusion of Kansas City Royals baseball. Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will air local radio broadcasts, while the Sporting KC App will provide additional in-game updates.
Supporters across the Kansas City metro are invited to attend the next stop on Sporting's Watch Party Palooza in June, with Chicken N Pickle in North Kansas City (1716 Burlington St.) offering food and drink specials starting at 4 p.m. CT. No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.) will also serve its customary all-inclusive buffet and bottomless domestic draft beer package.
Well-rested after a weekend off, Sporting jumps into the second half of the season with a quartet of reinforcements. Europeans Botond Barath, Nicolas Hasler, Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell have missed two straight games on international duty-including last Wednesday's loss to Minnesota United FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup-but will be available for selection Sunday against Columbus. Nemeth and Russell have been particularly influential this season, bagging a team-best seven goals apiece in MLS competition.
Manager Peter Vermes' side will also be pleased to report an improved bill of health. The club's injury report had swollen to 10 players for most of May, but the only players ruled out of Sunday's clash are long-term absentees Roger Espinoza, Erik Hurtado, Jaylin Lindsey and Rodney Wallace.
Sporting enjoyed a thrilling run to the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals this spring, but the team has secured just one win since the start of April and hasn't kept a clean sheet since March 14. Vermes' men will now face an opponent whose struggles are remarkably similar: Columbus began the 2019 campaign with a 4-1-1 record-notching shutouts in all four wins-but have gone 1-8-1 since April 13 with zero shutouts.
Led by head coach Caleb Porter, who previously led the Portland Timbers to the 2015 MLS Cup, Crew SC will be without a handful of influential players currently on national team duty. Forward and leading scorer Gyasi Zardes, deep-lying midfielder Wil Trapp and colossal center back Jonathan Mensah have combined for 45 of a possible 48 starts in MLS, but their absences will force Porter to flex his squad's depth and rely on the likes of midfielder Pedro Santos (four goals, two assists) and forward David Accam.
The pacey Accam scored in both of Columbus' Open Cup matches earlier this month, including a 3-2 Round of 16 loss to Atlanta United FC on Tuesday at MAPFRE Stadium. His arrival in a trade from the Philadelphia Union should help Crew SC cope with the loss of talismanic playmaker Federico Higuain, who will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
Sporting are 6-1-2 in their last nine regular season games against Columbus and own a 3-1-2 record in their last six trips to MAPFRE Stadium. The teams have drawn each of their last two meetings-a 1-1 draw in Central Ohio in September 2017 and a scoreless stalemate last year in Kansas City. Sporting lead the all-time regular season series 25-22-8, scoring 85 goals and allowing 84 since the first meeting in May 1996.
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