The Columbus Crew lost 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night, extending the club’s winless streak to six games. Columbus defender Julius James scored the winning tally on an own goal in the 74th minute after Kei Kamara and Emilio Renteria traded first half strikes.
For the sixth straight game, the Crew changed their midfield lineup in an attempt to find greater offensive production. Danny O’Rourke, who had started the previous three games after returning from an injury, was not named to the travel roster and was replaced by Kevin Burns. Josh Gardner was also dropped in favor of Emilio Renteria. Emmanuel Ekpo, who was nominally a forward last Saturday against Los Angeles, returned to midfield.
Despite the changes, Columbus again found it difficult to effectively link up with their forwards, with Andres Mendoza increasingly dropping into midfield in an attempt to generate offense.
Kansas City started the game with more pressure, testing the Crew defense several times in the first ten minutes – typically from the flanks. It was a turnover in the center of the field, however, that allowed Peter Vermes’ team to take an early lead.
A soft pass from Kevin Burns was intercepted by Chance Myers, who fed a pass to C.J. Sapong to the right of goal. Sapong was able to get around Chad Marshall, who was forced into a desperate tackle from behind to try and clear the ball, only to foul the rookie forward. Referee Hilario Grajeda immediately pointed to the spot. Former Crew forward Kei Kamara made no mistake, sending goalkeeper William Hesmer the wrong way.
Columbus almost found an immediate equalizer thre minutes later. Pushing forward from his right back position, defender Sebastian Miranda curled a right-footed cross from the flank that dropped neatly behind the Kansas City back line. Andres Mendoza reacted well to the opportunity, but was a split second late to the ball and had to stretch too far to make contact; his shot was off target.
Emilio Renteria was finally able to equalize in the 34th minute as the Crew midfield and forwards were finally able to find each other. Robbie Rogers threaded the crucial pass through a seam from the left side, picking out Renteria in space above the penalty arc. The Venezuelan striker took a controlling touch at speed and lashed a right-footed blast from the top of the penalty area that eluded Jimmy Nielsen’s dive and nestled into the left side of the goal.
Sporting started the second half well, winning a corner kick just two minutes in and keeping the Crew defense under pressure. The home team had a good opportunity to score in the 56th minute, but Chance Myers’ run onto a loose ball in the area was deflected onto the near post by a Crew defender.
Two plays in quick succession produced the final scoreline, starting in the 73rd minute. Dilly Duka led an attack up the right flank, cutting inside his marker at the corner of the penalty area to get a look at goal. His left-footed strike was well saved by Jimmy Nielsen, leaving Andres Mendoza to wave his arms in frustration as he stood open at the penalty spot.
Kansas City countered quickly down the left side, winning a throw-in deep in the channel. Center back Matt Besler, whose long throw-ins from such positions have to be defended like corner kicks, put the ball into the mixer where Julius James attempted to head it clear. Unfortunately, the ball caromed off the top of his head and looped over Hesmer, dropping under the crossbar for an own goal.
Coach Robert Warzycha made a trio of substitutions in the game’s final twenty minutes, replacing Emilio Renteria, Dilly Duka and Robbie Rogers – whose mobility was hampered as the game went on as he favored his left leg. The replacements of Justin Meram, Tommy Heinemann and Jeff Cunningham made little impact on the game, however.
The Crew had one final opportunity to equalize in the 85th minute. Emmanuel Ekpo floated a long ball from the left side of midfield, which Andres Mendoza anticipated well. Splitting through the Kansas City defenders, the Peruvian forward settled the ball and unleashed a shot that went straight at the goalkeeper. The rebound carried too far to the left of goal to allow a follow-up shot.
What It Means
Kansas City takes over first place in the Eastern Conference with the victory, leaving the Crew in third place with three games to play in the regular season. Should the season end today, the Crew would qualify for the postseason and face Houston in the second round of the playoffs.
Timeline of Events
15′ 0-1 Kei Kamara (penalty kick)
34′ 1-1 Emilio Renteria (Robbie Rogers)
36′ Caution, Shaun Francis (reckless tackle on Kei Kamara)
43′ Caution, Matt Besler (foul tackle on Emilio Renteria)
70′ Justin Meram replaces Emilio Renteria
74′ 1-2 Julius James (own goal)
76′ Caution, Aurellin Collin (foul tackle on Robbie Rogers)
77′ Lawrence Olum replaces Davy Arnaud
82′ Tommy Heinemann replaces Robbie Rogers
84′ Jeff Cunningham replaces Dilly Duka
86′ Michael Harrington replaces Omar Bravo
William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Shaun Francis, Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Dilly Duka (Jeff Cunningham 84′), Robbie Rogers (Tommy Heinemann 82′), Emilio Renteria (Justin Meram 70′), Andres Mendoza
Andy Gruenebaum, Eric Gehrig, Josh Gardner, Cole Grossman
Sporting Kansas City
Jimmy Nielsen, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Aurellin Collin, Chance Myers, Davy Arnaud (Lawrence Olum 77′), Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar, Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Omar Bravo (Michael Harrington 86′)
Eric Kronberg, Joseph Peterson, Jeferson, Teal Bunbury, Soony Saad
Columbus will return home for their final home game of the regular season, this Sunday against DC United. The team will finish the season with road games in New England (October 15th) and Chicago (October 22nd).
Kansas City will also play two of their last three games on the road, starting this weekend in San Jose. Their next home game will be October 15th against New York, with a trip to DC following the next weekend.