Sporting Kansas City-Crew Preview
A coaching change is one of the reasons the Columbus Crew are on the cusp of a playoff position.
Dominic Oduro is another.
Oduro looks to continue his stunning scoring streak as the Crew attempt to avenge their only loss under interim coach Brian Bliss on Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City.
A 3-8-0 stretch cost coach Robert Warzycha his job and seemed to have knocked Columbus (12-14-5) out of postseason contention.
Instead, the Crew have turned into viable playoff contenders under Bliss, going 4-1-0 while winning three in a row. They're coming off a 4-2 victory at Dallas on Sunday.
The surge has put them among five teams vying for one of the two wild-card positions in the Eastern Conference. Beating Kansas City (14-10-6) could put Columbus in one of those spots.
"The ball's in our court a little bit. We're putting some pressure on the teams ahead of us," Bliss told the team's official website. "Our guys feel good about our game, they feel good about each other, they feel good about themselves individually. We've just got to carry this momentum and keep going."
Oduro has been a major part of that, scoring the winning goal in each of the past three games while adding two assists in five games last month. The scoring outburst made him the first member of the Crew to earn league player of the month honors since Chad Marshall in August 2009.
"We take pride in our offense," Oduro said of Columbus, which has totaled nine goals from five players during the winning streak. "We have great guys. We have guys who are explosive, me included. Everybody's happy right now. Camp is really good."
Oduro's 12 goals equal his career high set with Chicago in 2011. He scored in a 3-2 loss at Kansas City on June 29, but failed to muster a shot on net in a 3-0 defeat there Sept. 7 - the Crew's only defeat under Bliss.
Columbus has managed two goals while going 1-2-1 in its last four home meetings with Sporting.
Kansas City, though, is coming off last weekend's 1-0 home loss to Philadelphia, another team vying for a playoff spot in the East.
Sporting is seven points clear of the postseason cutoff with four games left. However, the team is looking to show improvement in the final third after outshooting the Union 19-8.
"We just weren't clinical enough to score," coach Peter Vermes told the team's official website. "And you need to score. You need to put the ball in the back of the net.
"When you have that many chances, you have that much of the game, you have that much pressure on the other team, you've got to score to open up the game."
Production from Claudio Bieler would help. The forward leads the team with 10 goals, but has one over the past seven games. That tally, however, came against the Crew on Sept. 7.
Defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell is suspended for this match due to an accumulation of yellow cards.