Columbus is struggling and sits outside the playoffs nearing the halfway point of the year. Kansas City is the first of two road games that the Crew need results.
The Lineup: Matias Sanchez earned his fifth yellow and will be suspended and will be out of the lineup. Konrad Warzycha has moved up the pecking order to likely earn a start. Ben Speas will be ready to go and may supplant Jairo Arrieta on the left wing.
Gruenebaum; Barson, Williams, Marshall, Wahl; O'Rourke, Warzycha; Anor, Higuain, Speas; Oduro
Crew on Offense: Warzycha wants to keep playing his inverted wingers. He started Arrieta on the left wing instead of pushing Anor to the left and Oduro on the right. That keeps Higuain a little more central with more help. The Crew are creating chances, some of them are quite good, but the lack of finishing again was their downfall.
Sporting KC presents another problem. I think the MLS preferred term is physical, but they are a thuggish team. Paulo Nagamura, Kai Kamara, and Aurelien Collin are just as prone to take a chunk out of the player than catch the ball. Higuain works hard to fight through the fouls, but like any playmaker, he can be taken out of the game. He will need help from the tucked in wings to be able to make the quick pass.
This may play to the Crew's strengths on dead balls. Columbus has struggled on free kicks and corner kicks, but are due to score with Higuain serving up excellent chances.
Crew on Defense: Kansas City has the talent on offense to break down stout defenses, but they have struggled as of late. They are 1-1-3 in their last five. They only have six goals in those games as they lost Graham Zusi to National Team duty and worked to reintegrate him. The offense has shown signs of life as they scored twice on FC Dallas last week.
The Crew will have to adapt the SKC 4-3-3, a formation that can test the outside backs, where the Crew have struggled. Tyson Wahl and Chad Barson struggled against the Fire and Kansas City will test them even more. The Crew's wingers will have to be careful not to tuck in too far so to be available to help.
Sporting KC also plays with three in the middle. That will mean a lot of extra work for the Crew's central midfield. Danny O'Rourke and Matias Sanchez have done quite well, but with Sanchez suspended, O'Rourke will have to get used to a new partner in difficult circumstances.
Final Walkthrough: Kansas City has struggled, but they do have Zusi, Kamara, and Bieler to lead the attack. That's a dangerous trio against a Crew team that is still struggling on defense.
Sporting Kansas City 1 - Crew 0