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Sporting KC sees loss, gain during bye week
Sporting KC had the week off from league action and so did the Stoppage Time blog. In the absence of local action, I relaxed and enjoyed some of Europe's finest. Lionel Messi never ceases to amaze me with the speed and control he exhibits game in and game out. His touches between defenders for Barcelona's lone goal Tuesday were fantastic. He doesn't dive despite being one of the most fouled players in the game. It's too bad the only way we'll get to see him against Real Madrid at 3 p.m. on Saturday is via ESPN3.com.
Ok, onto the week's action from Sporting.
Sporting Kansas City has had a week off to rest and practice leading into the resumption of the regular season. The team is still on the road this weekend as it heads to Columbus to face the Crew. Sporting KC is also coming off an overtime victory earned by stingy defense and timely scoring. The team's confidence should be high and they should be more than prepared for an offensively stagnant Crew squad that's scored just three goals in four contests.
Sporting KC fans received more good news Friday when the team announced it had signed French defender Aurelien Collin. The 6'2" Collin will add some size, strength and experience to the young — and at times porous — Kansas City back line. It's not yet clear how soon Collin will be able to join the team on the field, but it'll be interesting to see how quickly and fluidly he adjusts.
The news that dominated Sporting KC's off week was the status of striker and designated player Omar Bravo. The team's second leading scorer was sidelined with a sports hernia following Sporting's last game out against the Houston Dynamo in U.S. Open Cup play. During that game, Bravo was taken out after an unproductive first half. Staff said following the game that he had been replaced in the second half lineup to avoid injury.
That didn't work out so well.
Bravo will miss three to six weeks as he recovers from the injury, leaving a few nagging questions as to how well Kansas City's offense will fair without him. Sporting has been without Bravo before, posting a 3-3 draw on the road against Vancouver in the season's third match. Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury and company will have to continue to find ways to produce in Bravo's absence.
Sporting KC is still in the midst of its grueling 10-game road trip to start the 2011 season. That kind of stretch is never easy, especially considering those games account for one third of the league season.
That said, Kansas City has managed to secure four points from its first three contests. Saturday night's game against Columbus will be important. Three points would vault Sporting into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with seven points. That is likely to change as the weekend passes, with every other team at least one game ahead of Sporting KC in their season schedules.
Saturday's game at Crew Stadium will come down to who can score. Columbus has had real trouble finding the back of the net up to this point in the season. Don't expect that to change against a rejuvenated Sporting KC squad. Kansas City is one of the four most productive teams offensively so far in this young season. Kamara will be looking to continue accumulating points and Bunbury should have plenty of good looks at goal.
KC hasn't scored fewer than two goals in an MLS regular season game so far this year. If they can net two in this one, that's all they'll need.
Prediction: Kansas City rides their strong offense and rested defense to a 2-0 victory on the road.
Game: Sporting KC at Columbus Crew
Location: Columbus Crew Stadium
Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: KSMO-TV channel 3 (regular def) or 203 (HD)