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Crew-Sporting Kansas City Preview

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Facing a Sporting Kansas City club that will be without some of its key players might allow the Columbus Crew to avoid setting a team record for road futility.

Hoping to build on their first victory under interim coach Brian Bliss, the Crew look to avert a seventh straight road defeat Saturday night against Kansas City.

Columbus (9-13-5), eighth in the Eastern Conference and five points out of the final playoff spot, got a goal and an assist from Justin Meram in a 2-0 victory over Houston on Wednesday.

Outscored 5-0 while losing the previous two matches to Real Salt Lake and Seattle, the Crew bounced back to give Bliss - the club's technical director in charge of player personnel - his first win since taking over as interim coach after Robert Warzycha was fired Monday.

"Now they have something to build on and there is a little bit of life left in them," Bliss told the Crew's official website.

The Crew hope the victory gives them confidence as they try to avoid their first seven-game road skid. Columbus is 0-6-1 away from home since a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC on May 18.

With 42 points, Kansas City (12-9-6) is tied with Montreal and New York atop the East, but will be minus four key contributors Saturday.

"It's a great opportunity for us to take advantage and grab three points," Crew forward Ethan Finlay said.

Sporting is looking to win two straight matches for the first time since a three-game winning streak July 7-20, but is without midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler due to U.S. national team commitments.

Young forward Dom Dwyer earned an assist in his first MLS start during Kansas City's 2-1 home win over Colorado last Saturday, but was loaned back to its USL Pro affiliate Orlando City SC for that team's championship game Saturday night.

The club also announced Monday that veteran forward Kei Kamara was transfered to Middlesbrough FC, signing a two-year contract to play for one of English soccer's second-tier squads.

Second on the team with seven goals in 15 matches this season, Kamara tallied 38 goals after joining Kansas City in 2009. He scored twice in a 3-2 home victory over Columbus on June 29, and has recorded four of Sporting's six goals as the club has taken two of its last three against the Crew in Kansas City.

"Obviously, it's never an easy decision when you're making the choice to sell a player," Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. "At the same time, it's part of the international soccer business. It wasn't an easy one, but at the same time I think it was a decision between both parties that was the likely choices.

"I feel confident in the guys that we have on our roster."

Forward C.J. Sapong, who had the assist on Zusi's go-ahead goal against Colorado, could see more time in place of Kamara.

Jairo Arrieta has three of the four goals Columbus has scored while splitting its last two matches in Kansas City.

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