Sporting Kansas City were missing four players to international duty and had just sold another across the Atlantic. And it didn't matter, as they throttled the Columbus Crew 3-0 at Sporting Park on Saturday night, bringing Brian Bliss & Co. back to earth after their midweek win over Houston.
Claudio Bieler broke a month-and-a-half scoring drought with an early penalty kick and assisted on Soony Saad's goal later in the first half, while C.J. Sapong added an insurance header before the hour mark as Sporting took over first place in the Eastern Conference.
Sporting (13-9-6) moved three points ahead of Montreal and New York, both of whom are in action on Sunday. Columbus, who lost forward Federico Higuaín from an already depleted roster with an adductor strain on Friday, dropped to 9-14-5 with their first loss under interim manager Bliss.
The Crew didn't put a shot on goal until the 78th minute, when Jimmy Nielsen stopped Jairo Arrieta's shot for his only save of the night. Columbus also lost Chad Marshall to a left quad contusion, as the veteran central defender had to exit the match in the 28th minute.
SKC's rout came in their first match since Kei Kamara's surprise sale to Championship side Middlesbrough on Monday – and on the same night that forward Dom Dwyer, loaned back to affiliate Orlando City SC for a one-night engagement, notched four goals and an assist as the Lions beat the Charlotte Eagles 7-4 for the USL PRO title.
Bieler put the hosts up 1-0 in the seventh minute, after Benny Feilhaber made a run into the area and was tripped up by Wil Trapp in the sixth. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero wasted no time before pointing to the spot, and Bieler buried his spot kick just inside the right post for his first goal since July 15 and team-leading 10th league tally of the season.
In the 41st minute, it was the Argentinian DP's turn to provide the setup. He played the ball wide to Saad on the left side of the penalty area, and Saad worked defender Eric Gehrig to the ground before going far-post for a 2-0 lead.
Sapong put the exclamation point on the win in the 55th when he rose up over Tyson Wahl near the penalty spot and headed home Uri Rosell's long diagonal ball.
Sporting KC are idle in all competitions until Sept. 17, when they host Nicaraguan side Real Estelí in CONCACAF Champions League play, and return to league action on Sept. 21 at Toronto FC. Columbus travel to Montreal on Sept. 14.