A new-look Columbus Crew defense could not contain Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. The former Wizards defeated the Crew 2-0 in front of their home crowd of 17,588.
While Kansas City lined up in their familiar 4-3-3 formation (minus attacking midfielder Graham Zusi), the Crew looked like a different team from last week. Three of the four positions in defense were changed. Benched were left-back Nemanja Vukovic and right-back Sebastian Miranda. Bernardo Anor started at left-back after a whopping career total of nine minutes at the position. Josh Williams, a very steady performer all season long at center-back, moved to the right. Eric Gehrig was inserted next to Chad Marshall in the center.
In midfield, Chris Birchall started at defensive mid, with Meram, Tchani, and Gaven in front of him. Jairo Arrieta started in his first ever appearance for Columbus next to Emilio Renteria at forward.
More after the jump...Kansas City were the early aggressors. Kei Kamara had his shot from the top of the box hit the side netting in the 3rd minute. Three minutes later, Sporting took the lead. Josh Williams' square pass near midfield went to Kamara instead of his intended target. Kamara advanced down the field and found Peterson Joseph in the center. Joseph flicked a through ball to Jacob Peterson, who finished low past Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum. Kamara later almost scored again after a back pass from Anor to Gruenebaum resulted in Gruenebaum chipping the ball right into Kamara. Luckily, the ball rolled safely past the end line for a goal kick.
Columbus did manage to produce a few good scoring opportunities of their own before the break. In the 24th minute, Williams got on the end of a Anor free kick and laid the ball back to Renteria at the edge of the six-yard box, but Renteria only managed to drill the ball into the side netting. The best chance for the Crew in the first half came five minutes later after Tchani played a clever pass to Meram on the edge of the box. Meram took one touch toward goal, but his shot ultimately was right at SKC goalie Jimmy Nielsen.
The Crew were actually the more dangerous team in the second half. Just three minutes in, Gaven crossed the ball and found Meram, whose header hit the underside of the cross bar before being cleared.
Dilly Duka came on in the 62nd minute for Arrieta and immediately made a positive impact, including three dangerous crosses.
In the 75th minute, Gaven sent in yet another dangerous cross, this time to Renteria. Renteria took a touch toward goal, but his shot attempt was saved by Nielsen. The ball fell to Tchani outside of the box, but he just missed the open goal with his half-volley. A minute later, Cole Grossman came in for Tchani, arguably the Crew's most dangerous player in the previous four games.
Despite Columbus' pressure, SKC doubled the lead in the 82nd after Anor gave the ball away to Kamara. Kamara dribbled down the right side of the field and slotted a pass to Teal Bunbury in the center. Bunbury took a great controlling touch before finishing low and to the right past Gruenebaum, giving Sporting their second goal in the 2-0 away victory.