Crew, Sporting KC square off in battle of top clubs (May 27, 2018)

Two sides near the top of the MLS Supporters Shield standings meet Sunday afternoon when Sporting Kansas City hosts the Columbus Crew at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Sporting Kansas City (7-2-3, 24 points) is four points clear of Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference. Columbus (7-3-3, 24 points) is tied with New York City FC, one point behind the front-running Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference.

Sporting is coming off a 1-1 draw at Minnesota United. It dominated every statistical category against the Loons except the score.

Sporting Kansas City owned a 24-6 advantage in shots and a 9-0 advantage in corner kicks. A vast majority of the second half was played in Minnesota’s end of the field, but Sporting could not get a second goal past Minnesota keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

“The effort was there,” Sporting KC forward Johnny Russell said after the match. “The effort is always there. That’s never a question. But I think technically we just lacked a little bit of quality in the end. It’s a game that we wanted to come here and win.”

Sporting has been nearly as strong on the road in 2018 as it has at home. Through 12 matches, it carries a 3-1-2 mark away from Children’s Mercy Park and has scored 11 goals after winning only twice and totaling 10 goals in 17 road matches in 2017.

But home has been really welcoming. Sporting KC has posted a 4-1-1 mark at Children’s Mercy Park, going undefeated since a season-opening loss to NYCFC.

Columbus is 2-2-2 in six road matches.

After starting the season 3-0-1 overall, the Crew lost three in a row before responding with a 4-0-2 stretch in their last six matches, including three straight victories.

While defense was an issue earlier in the season, the Crew has not allowed a goal in its last four matches (405 minutes). The latest victory came at New England, where Lalas Abubakar headed in a corner kick for the only goal of the match in the 85th minute.

But Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter knows his club will not have an easy time in Kansas City.

“Every year they’re a dangerous team,” he said of Sporting KC. “They put a lot of effort into each and every game. They have very good home support, a lot of energy. They really want to get the upper hand to you early in the game, and that’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Sporting leads the series 25-22-7 and holds a one-goal advantage, 85-84, in the 54 matches. It owns a 14-9-2 advantage in Kansas City, including the last three.

The biggest injury concern is for Sporting. Midfielder Jimmy Medranda was pulled in the first half against Minnesota, and is listed as questionable with an undisclosed leg injury.