COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An eventful match between the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City that was filled with three goals and two red cards ended with a late Benny Feilhaber goal, to give the visitors a 2-1 win in Crew Stadium Wednesday.
Kansas City was nearly at full strength for the midweek match, but were without a resting Graham Zusi, who didn't make the trip to Columbus. Second-year midfielder Mikey Lopez made his MLS debut with a start in midfield.
The Crew lineup, on the other hand, demonstrated how thin their current roster is. With only two healthy forwards on the roster, playmaker Federico Higuain started as the lone forward in what was advertised as a "false nine" role.
As the game began, it became apparent that the Crew was fighting an uphill battle. Kansas City's persistent high pressing flustered the possession-oriented back line, and Columbus's 4-2-3-1 turned into a very distinct 4-6-0, as Higuain played his usual free role, leaving no one up top to relieve the pressure.
But with the help of goalkeeper Steve Clark and defenders Michael Parkhurst and Gonzalez, the Crew held off attack after attack as Dom Dwyer, C.J. Sapong and Soony Saad made dangerous runs into the box.
Despite dominating the run of play, Kansas City found their opener on a set piece just before the half.
Feilhaber found a wide open Sapong from the corner, and Sapong gave Clark no chance, slamming the header into the back of the net for his first goal of the season.
Columbus looked defeated at the half, and made two substitutions before play restarted in hopes of changing their fortune.
The Crew's chances brightened in the 55th minute when Sporting defender Aurelien Collin was sent off. The French defender went into a challenge with Crew substitute Adam Bedell, who came down bloodied.
Officials discussed the issue for a moment, and minutes later referee Edvin Jurisevic showed Collin a straight red card, giving the Crew more than half an hour to play with the man advantage.
That edge gave the Crew a respite from the Kansas City high press and they took advantage, dominating for the next ten minutes and finding the equalizer.
An optimistic Chad Barson cross in the 69th minute seemed to be just out of the reach of Higuain, but the Argentinian got some help from Kansas City's Igor Juliao, who hit the cross with his shoulder and past a furious Andy Gruenebaum, leveling the score with the own goal.
The Crew squandered chance after chance as they pinned Kansas City in their own end, and could not capitalize on a field that shifted dramatically in their favor in the second half. Before they could find a goal, the player count was evened, when Wil Trapp picked up a second yellow card for a challenge on Feilhaber in the 89th minute.
When things seemed destined to finish at 1-1, Feilhaber found one last surge for Kansas City, slamming a shot off the crossbar and into the goal in the 93rd minute to rip Columbus hearts out and hand the Crew their second loss in a row.
The Crew, who have notched one win in their last 16 MLS matches, falls to 4-7-8 on the season, while Kansas City improved to 9-5-5.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Benny Feilhaber||With a goal and an assist, Feilhaber threatened Columbus' defense all night and helped draw a red card. A complete shift on the night|
|2||Michael Parkhurst||With Gonzalez getting reacquainted with his teammates, Parkhurst did much of the heavy lifting against a Kansas City side that pressed for the first hour|
The start of a new era for Sapong? His goal was well-taken, and if he can get on a roll, that should help KC become even more dangerous