The midweek Eastern Conference meeting pits two teams that appear to be heading in very different directions.The Columbus Crew host Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday hoping to reverse their recent fortune in the Eastern Conference (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live).
Recent history indicates the Crew have a tough task, with Sporting taking an earlier meeting this season by a 2-0 margin and winning all three matches in 2013. First-year coach Gregg Berhalter could use a positive result with his team mired in a six-match winless streak, though four of those games saw the Crew get a point.
Sporting, meanwhile, is unbeaten in its past four matches and enters the midweek contest — part of several MLS matches on a day typically considered the least exciting in American sports — coming off a 2-1 win against the Montreal Impact on Saturday.
Both teams were impacted by World Cup absences, with Berhalter missing Costa Rican defenders Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis and his opposite number Peter Vermes forced to cope without defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi of the USA.
The Ticos are ready to make their MLS return. That gives the Crew options on the back line, which will have to cope with Golden Boot contender Dom Dwyer and the Sporting attack. The Crew will also be able to deploy Bernardo Anor after he successfully appealed a red card he was issued in Saturday's 4-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls.
Zusi and Besler both already have made their returns to Sporting and should be available Wednesday.