COLUMBUS, Ohio - Sporting Kansas City battled to a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium in Ohio on Sunday afternoon. Cristian Lobato gave Sporting KC the lead midway through the first half with his first goal for the club before Crew SC’s leading scorer, Ola Kamara, headed home the equalizer in first-half stoppage time as the two sides settled for a point apiece.
Sporting KC (10-6-11, 41 pts.) moved into a tie for third in the Western Conference alongside Vancouver Whitecaps FC, while Columbus (13-12-4, 43 pts.) remains in fourth in the Eastern Conference. Sporting KC returns home for another inter-conference matchup next Saturday, Sept. 16 against the New England Revolution at Children’s Mercy Park.
Sporting KC started the match on the front foot with creative midfielder Benny Feilhaber playing a clever free kick to Graham Zusi on the edge of the area, but his low shot dribbled wide of the target five minutes in.
Sporting KC took the lead in the 19th minute when Matt Besler showed fantastic awareness to take a quick free kick and send Cristian Lobato through on goal. Columbus defender Jonathan Mensah made a hash of his clearance, allowing Lobato to escape in behind and finish low beyond Zack Steffen.
In the 25th minute, Justin Meram earned a dubious free kick under pressure from Graham Zusi, and Columbus Designated Player Pedro Santos struck his attempt well but it zipped narrowly over the bar. Moments later, Melia was called into action to tip Federico Higuain’s powerful 20-yard drive around the post.
Steffen almost gave Sporting KC a glorious opportunity to add a second goal in the 31st minute when his pass out of the back was intercepted by Roger Espinoza which resulted in a chance for Diego Rubio whose shot was blocked inside the area. Soon after, Zusi cut a ball back for Feilhaber on the edge of the area, but his shot again went off target.
Feilhaber had another shooting opportunity in the 41st minute but side-footed a stinging effort a yard wide of the goal from 18 yards out. Crew SC responded at the other end with Hector Jimenez dragging a well-struck half-volley just past Melia’s right-hand post.
Columbus pulled level in first-half stoppage time when Pedro Santos curled in a corner kick that Kamara met at the near post to thunder a header beyond Melia and make the halftime score 1-1 with his 15th goal of the season.
Sporting KC began the second half with a sustained spell of possession that resulted in Espinoza striking a powerful shot wide from 25 yards out. Seconds later, Espinoza plowed through the Columbus defense and chipped a ball back to Feilhaber who could only bounce a volley wide of the target.
Melia came to Sporting KC’s rescue in the 55th minute when Meram dribbled beyond Ike Opara and the ball squirmed out to Kamara six yards out, but Melia showed incredible instincts to block what looked like a certain go-ahead goal for the hosts.
Higuain picked out Kamara behind the Sporting KC backline in the 62nd minute, but the usually clinical forward scuffed his attempt well wide of goal. Two minutes later, Ilie strode forward from midfield and blasted a shot on frame that forced Steffen to sprawl to his left and tip it away.
Homegrown striker Daniel Salloi almost gave his side the lead in the 65th minute when he was found inside the area and turned sharply away from his man, but his low effort was straight into the arms of Steffen. In the 74th minute, Ilie curled a free kick from deep that was flicked away for a corner by the Crew SC defense with Opara poised to finish.
Melia once again kept Sporting KC level as Meram fed Higuain into the area with only the 31-year-old goalkeeper to beat, but Melia stuck out a strong left leg to block the Argentinian’s low shot in the 80th minute.
Sporting KC had one final opportunity to steal all three points in the 85th minute when Feilhaber caused a turnover in midfield. The ball dropped to Espinoza, who in turn fed Salloi into the area but the Hungarian’s placed finish flashed a yard wide of goal as neither side was able to find a winning goal.