Sporting KC: Win Over Columbus Big For Playoff Race

May 15, 2016; Kansas City, KS, USA; Parker Fleeman gets an autograph from Matt Besler (5) after the game between Orlando City SC and Sporting KC at Children
May 15, 2016; Kansas City, KS, USA; Parker Fleeman gets an autograph from Matt Besler (5) after the game between Orlando City SC and Sporting KC at Children /

In their first match since the international break on Sunday, Sporting Kansas City defeated 10-man Columbus Crew SC 3-2 to move the team into fourth place in the MLS Western Conference standings.

Graham Zusi and Matt Besler both returned to Sporting KC from the United States National Team. Both players netted their first goal of the season, helping the team avoid their fifth loss at Children’s Mercy Park in 2016 after losing just two matches at home all of last season.

Ola Kamara opened the scoring when he netted a cross from Harrison Afful in the 22nd minute giving Columbus, who had just three wins in 15 matches going in, a 1-0 lead.

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Shortly after halftime, Dom Dwyer was taken down from behind in the penalty by Tyson Wahl of Columbus, and Wahl was shown the red card and sent off. Benny Feilhaber converted the penalty to level the match at one goal a piece.

Just eight minutes later, Sporting KC took advantage of their man advantage as Graham Zusi scored from just outside the box following an incredible run shortly past midfield. Kansas City’s lead wouldn’t last, however, as Ola Kamara scored his second goal after a defensive breakdown by Sporting KC in the 75th minute.

The match would remain tied until stoppage time, when Matt Besler scored his first goal of the season, and first since 2011. The defender entered the match as a substitute in the second half for his first action since the Copa America third place game, and scored off a brilliant headed pass across the face of goal from Ike Opara.

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This was a huge win for Sporting KC as they climbed from 8th to 4th in the Western Conference standings, and back into the playoff conversation. Although Sporting sits currently in the top six in the West, they have played more games than every other team in the conference, including three more than first place Colorado Rapids. Colorado already sits six points ahead of Kansas City.

This was a crucial win for Sporting KC against a bad side. The team will have to continue to beat clubs that sit at the bottom of the table in order to stay in the playoff race this season. They’ll also have to take advantage of their remaining home games as they play eight of the final 15 matches on the road.

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As a team that started 3-0-0, Sporting has the talent on their roster to make the MLS playoffs and be competitive when they get there. Unfortunately, injuries and struggles at home coupled with the loss of players like Graham Zusi and Matt Besler to international duty have set back this team time and time again. With Zusi and Besler both back for the rest of the season, Sporting needs to find their consistency and home dominance again if the team wants to make it back to the playoffs.