AN IMPORTANT TWO-MATCH ROAD SWING
After closing-out a two match homestand in the third and fourth weekends of June, the Black & Gold begin an important two-match road swing: at Sporting KC (June 29) and at LA (July 4) ... following Saturday’s match, the team will travel to LA on Sunday and train in the City of Angels ahead of the Independence Day clash on Thursday ... the seven-day trip will test the team’s road record of 3-3-2.
A TRIP TO SPORTING PARK...
The Crew travels to Sporting KC’s beautiful home, Sporting Park, for the club’s third- ever visit ... the Crew fell 2-1 in the team’s first visit on September 28, 2011 before securing a full three points in the Black & Gold’s only visit last year on July 28 -- a 2-1 win for the visiting Crew ... from 1996-2007, the Crew was 5-9-2 at the longtime home of the Kansas City club before posting an unbeaten (3-0-0) record at Community- America Ballpark from 2008 through 2010 before Sporting’s new venue opened.
TOP GOAL-SCORERS BATTLE FOURTH STRAIGHT MATCH
For the fourth straight week, the Crew and its opponent will battle in a match featur- ing two of the top five goal scorers in MLS in 2013 ... Dominic Oduro added his seventh goal of the season on Saturday, June 15 against Montreal and remained in the elite list of MLS goal-scorers in 2013 ... Oduro is tied with Sporting KC’s Claudio Bieler for fifth in MLS behind Camilo Sanvezzo and co-Budweiser Golden Boot leaders, Jack McInerney, Mike Magee and Marco Di Vaio (10 goals) ... Oduro has converted on the fewest amounts of shots on goal -- demonstrating that when the opportunity strikes, so does the Ghanaian striker.
SANCHEZ UNAVAILABLE ON SATURDAY; MIDFIELD COMPETITION...
Matías Sánchez will miss Saturday’s match as the Argentine serves a mandatory one- game suspension for yellow-card accumulation after picking-up his fifth caution last Saturday against Chicago ... other midfielders that have seen action this year include- Kevan George, Tony Tchani, Agustín Viana and Konrad Warzycha.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE BATTLE OF CORNER KICK LEADERS
Saturday’s contest also features the League’s top two corner kick leaders thus far in 2013 as Federico Higuain (71) faces Graham Zusi (70) of Sporting KC ... the Crew only had three corner kicks in last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Chicago, but Higuain took all three for the club ... Zusi took all four of Sporting’s corner kicks in the 2-2 draw against FC Dallas last weekend, leaving the midfielder just one behind the Crew play- maker entering this weekend.
Before the match on June 22 against the Chicago Fire, first responders from the April 27 Crew Stadium scoreboard fire were recognized with a special jersey. The Columbus Crew would like to give them a special thank you for their service.
Station 1 (Union Station Engine House)
Station 2 (Nance Fire Station)
Station 7 (Buckeye Fire Station)
Station 13 (Olde North Columbus Fire Station)
Station 16 (Mock Orchard Fire Station)
Station 18 (South Linden Fire Station)
On the heels of its Military Appreciation Night on June 22, the Crew joined forces with Operation Buckeye to help prepare care packages that will be sent to servicemen and women overseas. Players and staff spent Wednesday afternoon filling boxes with food, toiletries and letters of encouragement to help brighten soldiers' spirits while they serve the United States Military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We have to be thankful for everything the troops do for us," Crew midfielder Justin Meram said. "Anyway I can help give back to them, I will do it. Without them our country wouldn't be so great.
"We have to do everything we can to make their days better. They're out there with just water and not much to eat. These are the times when we need to help and make those days a little bit easier for them."
Last year alone, Operation Buckeye sent over 5,000 boxes overseas to troops stationed overseas. For more information, visit OperationBuckeye.org.
The Crew and Sporting Kansas City split their three meetings in 2012 right down the middle with each team claiming one match apiece while the finale ended in a draw. Before the two original MLS rivals meet for the first time in 2013, here is a look back at the three battles from last season.
A seventh-minute Jacob Peterson tally gave Sporting an early lead in a midsummer clash between the two midwestern rivals at Crew Stadium. While the Crew created several prime chances in search of an equalizer, Kansas City's All-Star goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was there to deny the Black & Gold each time. Top-of-the-table Sporting's victory was sealed in the 82nd minute when striker Teal Bunbury finished a Kansas City counterattack to beat Andy Gruenebaum in net.
Despite Kansas City forward Kei Kamara's early goal, the Crew's only trip to Sporting Park in 2012 was the coming out party of newly signed Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta. The forward tallied twice to help the Black & Gold overcome an early deficit, including a 30-yard laser past Nielsen to give Columbus the 2-1 lead in the 34th minute. Playing in front of his hometown crowd, Kansas City native Andy Gruenebaum made five crucial saves amid a Sporting onslaught late in the match to preserve the Crew victory.
Just like the first two matches before, Sporting Kansas City scored within the first 10 minutes against the Crew to put the Black & Gold on their heels early. With its playoff chances waning, Eddie Gaven's stoppage-time near-post header past Nielsen was enough to keep the Crew's postseason dreams alive for the time being.
When mentioning Dominic Oduro to any Crew supporter, they usually think of two things – his blistering pace and his love of Papa John's pizza. Today, while his speed was not on display, Oduro managed to share a few slices of his favorite pizza with a group of appreciative supporters in front of Crew Stadium.
“I took off a half-day to come down here”, said Chris Welsh, who enjoyed a piece of pizza with his wife and fellow Columbus Crew season ticket holder, Heather. Oduro joined the couple shortly after they were seated, thanked them for their support and encouraged them to grab another slice.
Oduro, who is not shy about relating his fondness for Crew supporters and his own fans alike, remained humbled by the opportunity to give back after working a personal endorsement with the official pizza of the Crew and Crew Stadium.
“I appreciate the fact that some people are coming from work just to be here for a bite – that really makes me feel happy and proud,” said Oduro at the event, which previewed the special $11 Crew Pie – an extra-large pizza conveniently priced after Oduro’s jersey number – set to launch next week.
“I want to thank Papa John's for making this thing happen.”
Even though the turnout was impressive, as more than 150 slices were distributed in the lunch-hour event, Oduro insisted that he was happy with the idea of a low-key event, for the fans.
“I just want to show my appreciation, at the end of the day, to all of the fans out there. It doesn’t matter how many are in the crowd,” said the 27-year-old Ghanaian. “I’d be excited if just one person showed up.”
Complementing the pizza party, the Crew’s leading goal-scorer also made a personal donation to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank as the culinary-based event called for recognition of helping the less fortunate.
“I’m just trying to give back to the community – it’s just another way for me to try and carry it forward. Hopefully my donation to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank can help to feed a couple of people out there. My hope is that people will see what I’m doing and try to do the same.”
Crew midfielder Wil Trapp wore the captain's armband and played 90 minutes in the United States' 1-1 draw with France in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup on Monday. After two matches, the U.S. is in third place in Group A of the tournament on one point. The U.S. has one match against Ghana remaining in group play on Thursday with a chance to advance to the knockout round.
IT FEELS LIKE JUST LAST THURSDAY
Following the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round affair on June 13 , the Crew and the Fire meet for the second time this season in regular-season play when the Fire comes to Columbus ... the match -- just nine days after the U.S. Open Cup contest -- is the first of two trips for the Fire to Crew Stadium, as the Black & Gold host Chicago on June 22 (8:00 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio) before welcoming The Fire again on Saturday, September 21.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF
The Columbus Crew suffered a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on June 13 in the Fourth Round of the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Konrad Warzycha gave the Black & Gold the early lead in the 22nd-minute on a header off of a Ben Speas free kick. Chicago’s Mike Magee answered just six minutes later on a pass from Gonzalo Segares. The Fire would take the lead for good in the 78th-minute on Patrick Nyarko’s goal from Chris Rolfe in the fourth-ever meeting between the two clubs in the tournament named after the Crew’s founder, dating back to 1998.
SEEING BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVALRY...
Since 1998, 16 players have suited-up for both the Crew and the Fire in their careers ... the list includes: Brian McBride, Ante Razov, Jon Busch, Dominic Oduro, Dilly Duka, Matt Chulis, Leonard Griffin, Andy Herron, Richie Kotschau, Manny Lagos, Brian Plotkin (never played for Crew but was rostered), Tony Sanneh, Tim Ward, Andy Williams and John Wolyniec.
... ODURO’S HOUSEWARMING PARTY ON SATURDAY
On Saturday, Crew forward Dominic Oduro gets a chance to host the team that traded him to the Black & Gold in February ... Oduro scored 18 goals in 66 matches for the Fire in 2011 and 2012 ... while with the Fire, he recorded one goal in five appearances against the Crew ... the 27-year-old also made five appearances and recorded one assist against the Crew while a member of FC Dallas (2006-2008) and made two appear- ances against Columbus while with Houston from 2009-2010.
SPEAKING OF DOM AT HOME
Dominic Oduro’s next match at Crew Stadium will be his 15th contest in the house of the Black & Gold ... his statistical numbers indicate that he much prefers suiting-up in the Crew dressing room ... in his first seven matches at Crew Stadium from 2006- 20012 (all as a visiting player) Oduro recorded a single assist ... last Saturday against Montreal was Oduro’s seventh home match at Crew Stadium this year while in a Crew jersey -- a match in which he added a goal and an assist -- giving him three goals and one assist in seven home matches in 2013.
CREW AND YOUNG BARSON GET SOME LOVE FROM NATIONAL PUNDITS
Soccer By Ives named the Columbus Crew its “MLS Team of the Week” following its 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Saturday ... Soccer By Ives also named Black & Gold defender Chad Barson its “MLS Rookie of the Week” ... with injuries plaguing the Crew backline, Barson, “stepped up to the task, playing 90 minutes and effectively shutting-out Justin Mapp and Marco Di Vaio.”
ONE-GOAL GAMES ARE BECOMING A THEME IN CREW-FIRE TILTS
The previous six meetings between the longtime rivals have resulted in one-goal matches, providing plenty of drama in regular-season play ... Chicago is 5-1-0 in the current span, with the Black & Gold securting a 2-1 win on May 26, 2012 at Crew Stadium ... the teams played to a 1-0 finish in Chicago when the two clubs last met on April 20 ... should the match remain close again this weekend, both teams will look to secure points in another crucial one-goal game situation as Chicago is 2-4-0 while Columbus is 2-3-0 in those tightly-contested situations.
NOT ALLOWING MUCH FROM THE FIRE
Chicago may have the Crew’s number in the last six overall meetings (5-1-0) but the Black & Gold have been solid at home against their rivals, securing points in four of the last five meetings at Crew Stadium (2-1-2) dating back to 2008 ... in those five meetings, Chicago has only scored two goals twice -- in the first two meetings of the five-match clip -- and the Fire has been held to one goal in each of the previous three meetings at Crew Stadium dating back to 2010.
Crew midfielder Wil Trapp and the United States will begin play in the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey on Friday against Spain (1:45 p.m. ET / ESPN2). The 20-year-old Gahanna native is coming off an impressive performance in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships back in March that saw him earn Best XI honors for the tournament. Trapp is likely to be an integral part of Head Coach Tab Ramos' plans in Turkey as the U.S. takes on Spain, France and Ghana in group play.
Without starters Jairo Arrieta (international duty), Eddie Gaven (torn ACL) and Gláuber (torn ACL), the Crew was able to put in a commanding performance in its 2-0 home victory against the first-place Montreal Impact in Week 16 of the 2013 MLS Season. Despite the win, the Black & Gold saw little movement in this week's Power Rankings across four national media outlets.
MLSSoccer.com: 13th (15th)
ESPNFC: 14th (14th)
Sports Illustrated: Not available as of Wednesday morning (13th)
ProSoccerTalk: 13th (13th)
Last week's ranking in parentheses.