By DAN KARELL
For the second time under interim head coach Brian Bliss, the Columbus Crew had no answer for Sporting Kansas City.
A first-half goal from defender Ike Opara proved to be the difference as Sporting KC defeated the Crew, 1-0, in front of 19,107 on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The victory moved Peter Vermes’ side one step closer to clinching a playoff berth with only three matches remaining in the 2013 season.
Despite playing on the road, Sporting KC looked comfortable in attack with a front three of Soony Saad, Dom Dwyer, and C.J. Sapong, creating a few chances early, including a good strike on goal by midfielder Graham Zusi that Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson held.
Opara’s goal came off a miscleared corner kick that found its way back to the far side of the field, where Zusi sent in another cross to the back post. Opara arrived while Agustin Viana remained on the ground, heading home as the referee declared the goal to stand in the 17th minute.
In the second half, as the game had become more physical, a clash of heads between Chad Barson and Matt Besler left the two on the ground, with Besler’s head covered in blood after suffering a gash that needed stitches later. Both players remained in the game, though, as did Crew forward Federico Higuain, who looked to be laboring throughout.
The defeat sends the Crew to eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with 41 points, though they’re just four points behind the playoff seeds with three games remaining in the season.
Here are the match highlights: