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Crossing the Touchline: Columbus Crew SC at Sporting Kansas City

A look at Sunday’s Crew SC opponent, Sporting Kansas City.

One win in the last eight matches. That is the recent story for Columbus Crew SC.

The Black & Gold enter Sunday’s match with only three wins on the season, but seven draws in 2016 have kept Columbus alive in the Eastern Conference with 16 points on the year.

For Crew SC, it’s about finding the offense which has been inconsistent all year. Forward Ola Kamara, who replaced the traded Kei Kamara, has managed five goals in in five starts for the Black & Gold, but an offense that produced 110 goals over the last two seasons has been rather inconsistent this year.

The opponents are Sporting Kansas City, who aren’t having the finest of seasons either. While SKC sits just one point back of the LA Galaxy for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, Sporting have eight ties in 2016 with only six wins. After winning four of the club’s first five matches, Kansas City has two victories since mid-April.

As is the norm for SKC, Dom Dwyer sits at the top of the scoring charts for the club with eight goals this season. While Saad Abdul-Salaam, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi have combined for 11 assists on the year, no player has become the second scorer for Kansas City.

To learn a little more about what’s been going on with Sporting, we turned to our friends at The Blue Testament, and specifically editor Cody Bradley to answer some questions.

Questions for The Blue Testament

Massive Report: Crew SC just dealt with the press of the New York Red Bulls last week and it worked for a portion of the match. Sporting does something similar. Could you explain to Columbus fans who aren't familiar how KC's press works for what Peter Vermes wants accomplished?

The Blue Testament: Vermes requires a lot out of every single player on the field. He can't just get any player to work in his system and if they don't do what is asked of them, they simply do not stick around long. For instance, when Vermes got Feilhaber, he was not the kind of player willing to trek back on defense and make every single tackle. And it literally was not until the playoffs that season that Benny finally started regularly and started having success.

So yes, this team will deploy the high flying press of the 4-3-3. The fullbacks will get forward as often as possible, every player in Sporting Blue will be very physical, and when the ball is lost there will be two guys trying to win it back IMMEDIATELY. They will take a professional foul over giving up an easy chance all day. Dom Dwyer will wear down the center backs like a nagging mother-in-law and is waiting for the one hint of a mistake on that back-line to capitalize. Vermes talks a lot about how every player must know his role in every situation and they have to stay focused for every moment. He would rather put a player into a slot that knows his system and what is required in that role, over talent/potential that either isn't familiar yet or not willing to do the work. (i.e. Jacob Peterson) Things like this are why he is so hesitant to switch up his formation and tactics, something that drives many fans crazy.

MR: Dom Dwyer has been the model of consistency this year with two goals each month for a total of eight. What makes this guy such a perfect fit for the Kansas City attack?

TBT: I touched on it above, and I think the biggest reason is his work ethic and desire. I've heard a story that can help answer this question. One time while watching film, Dwyer had done something either in the room or in the game they were watching that got Vermes going. He said something along the lines of, "Dom you are a real dick. But you really want to win and that's why you are on the team."

He is absolutely relentless in his work rate and his hold up play. He will chirp all game, be physical all game, and truly frustrate everyone around him. The way this system works, the midfield absolutely has to have somebody to bounce the ball off of up top. Dwyer and his low center of gravity can hold his ground accept a pass and allow somebody to move into space. Most of the time the defender at his back will foul him, which also does the job. But if the ref isn't giving Dom that call where he gets elbows and knees straight to his back and tailbone, it can be a long night for the SKC attack. The other thing that is essential to this system is the willingness to fight to win the ball back right away. Dom never stops running so he is normally in a position to do this when Sporting get forward. He's a true center forward and really is a perfect fit here. That is why he is already 2nd all time in goals scored for this franchise and this will be just his third full season!

MR: SKC is second in the league in shots, but near the bottom (and below Crew SC) in goal scored. What is going on with this offense?

TBT: They are firing off shots, but they aren't always good ones. This team has definitely gone through spells where they created a million chances and had good shots, but couldn't quite finish. I think that happens to everyone. For me, the real difference has been Benny Feilhaber. The guy is simply not the player he was last year. I hate myself for admitting this because I love Benny. But I mean he has been letting balls go through his legs, he's made terrible mistakes that led directly to goals, and he tries passes that would have worked last year but are way off this year.

Dwyer will score goals if given enough service. I think what this team has been lacking is that one special moment in the attack that Benny supplied last year. Every now and then he will finally be able to send that cheeky pass between the defense or a clever chip, and when he does they score or get the ball on frame! On top of that, Graham Zusi has continued to struggle this season for SKC. He has been unable to contribute to the scoring or service to Dwyer. Brad Davis and Justin Mapp were brought in to help with all of that. Davis has scored a couple big goals but they need much more from him, and Mapp has only played about 22 minutes total.

Something needs to be done, or somebody needs to step up. Because this club promises and this fan base expects to compete for silverware. They just extended Diego Rubio's (Dwyer's backup) loan which is nice, but more needs to be done to really fix the problem.


To read what we had to say to The Blue Testament, head on over to their site.