Despite already having clinched a postseason berth, Sporting Kansas City has plenty to play for over its final three games - namely home-field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Columbus Crew simply are hoping to join their conference rival in the postseason.
Visiting Kansas City can move closer to wrapping up its second straight regular-season East crown with a victory over the playoff-hopeful Crew on Sunday.
Sporting KC (17-7-7) secured its spot in the postseason with a 2-0 win over Chicago on Sept. 28, as Graham Zusi scored in the 11th minute and added another goal in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time.
“Every time we’re put in a position where we’ve had to get certain results, we’ve done a really good job of getting them,” coach Peter Vermes told the team’s official website. “I like the fact that we’re locked in. The performances have been good, but the results are what we’ve been very good at getting at the right times.”
Kansas City, which finished atop the East in 2011 before falling to Houston in the conference final, leads Chicago by two points in the East after the Fire beat New York 2-0 on Saturday.
Sporting KC, which has posted a league-leading 14 shutouts, also is chasing West-leading San Jose for the Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team finishing with the most points in MLS.
“We have the least amount of goals scored against us in the league and that’s a commitment to the way that the guys will compete for every role on the field,” Vermes said. “It’s not just at home, but it’s also away and that’s a great attribute for a team to have, especially when you’re going into the end of the season and into playoffs.”
The Crew (14-11-6) helped their playoff chances with a 3-2 win over Philadelphia last Saturday, getting two goals from Jairo Arrieta. The top five teams in each conference qualify for the postseason, and Columbus currently is sixth chasing Houston for the final spot.
“We’re not going to be safe and secure until we take care of our business each and every game and control our own destiny,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told the team’s official website.
Columbus plans to be aggressive against Sporting KC, which hasn’t allowed a goal in three straight games.
“We have to put them under pressure,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “We can’t make it too easy for their backs to play. Once we do that, then we can play a little bit, knock the ball around, make them chase, make them tired, and hopefully it opens up some gaps to get some goal-scoring chances to finish off.”
The Crew have won five straight at home and are 9-1-1 over their last 11 in Columbus, with the lone loss coming to Kansas City. They avenged that defeat shortly after, though, as Arrieta scored both goals in a 2-0 victory at Sporting KC on July 28.
Kansas City has won two of the last three meetings at Crew Stadium, with both victories via shutouts.
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