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Crew and Sporting Kansas City battle in scoreless draw

Columbus doesn’t score but doesn’t give up a goal on the road

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Sporting Kansas City Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew travel to face Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. With both sides entering the contest on three-match losing streaks, both hoped the wind would blow away some of their recent frustrations with a turn of form. While the wind had its hand in the match, neither side overcame the conditions or the opponent in a 0-0 draw.

Saturday’s match started with a potentially scary moment. In the third minute, Crew midfielder James Igbekeme and center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin both went for a ball in the air. The result was their heads colliding. Igbekeme returned but Kansas City had to adjust with an Isimat-Mirin concussion substitution.

Injuries and fouls brought a slow start to the match, with neither team getting to build on its momentum. However, Columbus forward Miguel Berry found an early chance in the seventh minute with a shot on goal, something he hadn’t had since the Black & Gold’s 2-1 victory against Toronto FC on March 12.

In the 15th minute, Berry had the chance for another. On a poor pass by Kansas City in the midfield, Igbekeme found midfielder Darlington Nagbe who sent a searching pass to Berry. Sporting center back Kortne Ford slid into Berry’s way before a shot could go off.

A minute later, winger Yaw Yeboah had another chance, making a run that gave him space alone in front of goalkeeper Tim Melia. Although there was a strong chance for offside, Yeboah sent a shot wide of the net.

While none of the three chances turned into goals, it showed the hunger and desperation of the Crew to score the first goal, after not doing it since the first match of the season on Feb. 26 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

With seven minutes left in the first half, the clouds above Children’s Mercy Park opened up.

On a Kansas City break, midfielder Remi Walker made his way into the penalty area and went to the ground following a touch by Santos. Sporting’s supporters’ section shouted towards referee Fotis Bazakos, who said there was nothing live during the play and not enough contact for a VAR review either.

After a foul by midfielder Artur, Sporting fullback Graham Zusi sent in a cross to forward Khiry Shelton who sent in a header that goalkeeper Eloy Room dove and stopped. A rebound looked like Columbus could have given up another set piece goal but Room caught the ball at the post.

The second half began with a lot of physicality. With 40 minutes remaining in the match, both teams split 12 fouls evenly, with Kansas City coming into the second half earning two quickly in the first five minutes of the half.

Without many chances on goal at the start of the second half, Sporting tried to catch the Crew sleeping. In the 63rd minute, on a quick free kick, Kansas City got a shot on goal but Room kicked the shot away, sending it straight into the air before the goalkeeper caught it safely.

In the 75th minute, the Black & Gold had another chance. This time, fullback Steven Moreira sent in a low cross into the penalty box for a waiting Berry. Ford got in front of the pass to break it away for a Crew corner that ended with nothing.

A lightning strike in the area delayed the match for nearly an hour late in the second second half.

From the restart, the Crew had the momentum. The Black & Gold held possession, moved the ball around the defensive penalty area well and had Kansas City on its heels. Sporting had chances, with the best of the match after the restart coming as a gift from Columbus Milos Degenek, who went to clear a cross and instead hit it towards the goal as Room made a diving save, holding on to a 0-0 draw.

Offense stays asleep

Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan’s absence meant that the Crew had to play differently than normal. Against a team susceptible to the counter, Columbus sacrificed possession but outside of early in the match, it didn’t lead to a slew of new chances.

The Black & Gold played a lot more direct than usual and early on it gave the team chances, but nothing that opened a floodgate of goals that head coach Caleb Porter hopes will come from the next goal in the run of play.

Defensive stand

Something that the Crew hasn’t done in a while is keep a clean sheet. The Black & Gold frustrated Sporting as Kansas City was forced into passes that the Columbus midfield easily telegraphed the pass and intercepted.

Room was a huge piece of this, making three saves on the night and one from a set piece. While it doesn’t help put goals between the posts on offense, it makes it easier to compete when mistakes and goals aren’t impacting matches.

What’s next

The Crew returns home to Field next weekend against MLS original D.C. United to Columbus. United started the season at the bottom of the MLS standings, but comes into the match after a 3-2 victory against the New England Revolution on Saturday.