Jairo Arrieta’s first-half brace and Andy Gruenebaum’s goalposts were enough to hold off Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night at Livestrong Sporting Park. The hosts went up early but weren’t able to find the back of the net for the rest of the game, giving the Columbus Crew a 2-1 road victory.
The Crew used the exact same starting XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation from their 1-0 victory over D.C. United last weekend. Carlos Mendes and Chad Marshall started at center defense with Sebastian Miranda and Josh Williams on the sides. Chris Birchall and Cole Grossman played defensive mid. Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka, and Justin Meram interchanged in the attacking midfielder positions directly behind Arrieta up top. Kansas City lined up in their patented 4-3-3 with Teal Bunbury leading the forward line.
Although Columbus were the early aggressors with a couple of chances from Chris Birchall corners, it was Sporting who took the early lead. In the 8th minute, Kei Kamara out leaped Chad Marshall in the box and headed home a Graham Zusi free kick to give his team an early advantage.
It didn’t take long for the Crew to equalize. In the 17th minute, Josh Williams made a penetrating run from his left-back position and slotted a pass to Arrieta as he made a run in between SKC’s defense. Arrieta took a touch, fought off a Kansas City defender, and hit a low shot with his left foot past goalie Jimmy Nielsen and into the net.
Arrieta struck again in the 34th minute, this time after a bad mistake by Sporting. Graham Zusi’s attempted back pass went straight to the Columbus forward, who knocked the ball down with his chest. Arrieta controlled the ball before ripping a laser of a shot into the left-side netting.
Kansas City almost equalized before the break. Bobby Convey’s corner found Matt Besler wide open in front of goal, but his header was too close to Andy Gruenebaum who saved easily.
The majority of the second half consisted of Sporting peppering the goal in attempts to level the game. In the 51st minute, Zusi hit a volley from outside of the box that Gruenebaum only managed to tip onto the crossbar. The ball fell to Teal Bunbury, but he missed the open goal with his one-time effort.
Four minutes later, Bunbury had two more chances to score after being played in on goal, but Gruenebaum made two great reaction saves to keep the Crew in the lead.
Sporting hit the crossbar for a second time in the 65th minute. Matt Besler’s long throw in connected with Kamara who managed to out jump Chad Marshall again. Kamara’s header hit the top side of the crossbar and harmlessly out of bounds.
Kamara had another great opportunity to level the game in stoppage time, but he missed an open goal after a minor scuffle in the box resulted in Gruenebaum on the ground, the ball in the air, and Kamara skewing it just wide, keeping the score in Columbus’ favor, 2-1.