Kansas City, KS – Recent weeks have been frustrating for both the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City, and the two sides will meet up at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday both in need of three points.
Neither side has had a lot of luck in front of goal recently with Columbus scoring five times in its last six games, while Sporting hasn't fared any better with three goals in four games.
The Crew will try to overturn a 2-0 defeat at home against Sporting from two weeks ago, and the key could be the play of midfield duo Dilly Duka and Jairo Arrieta.
Duka started only his fourth game of the season in the Crew's 1-0 win over D.C. United last time out, while Arrieta set up the only goal of the match and brings with him a more offensive approach in the middle of the field.
Duka's numbers may not reflect his effectiveness - with one assist in eight appearances this season - but Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum is aware of his contribution.
"He's fun to watch," Gruenebaum said of Duka. "He brings an element to the team I felt was lacking, a little creativity, a little bit of deception."
After two straight losses, the 1-0 win over United was a step in the right direction for head coach Robert Warzycha, who thought that his team's overall effort in the win was the biggest difference.
"I saw more intensity to be honest with you," the coach said. "We worked harder and there were no mental lapses. If you don't have any mistakes and you don't give up the goal, which can change the game, we can be very good."
Kansas City is a team that knows all too well how frustrating it can be when you don't score goals.
The club has been held without a goal in its last three home games, including a 0-0 draw with the New England Revolution last time out in league play.
"When you make a clean sheet, you're guaranteed at least a point," said Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen after the draw. "When we couldn't put in the goals today - all right, we get one point. It's better than nothing. But I'm struggling to stand here being satisfied."
With only two wins from its last eight games, there shouldn't be anyone in Kansas City who is satisfied. But midfielder Graham Zusi, while frustrated, doesn't think the solution is overly complicated.
"It's frustrating. I'm not going to lie," Zusi said. "It's not from a lack of opportunities, either. I think we've created plenty of chances. It's all about sticking them in the back of the net now."
Despite its struggles in recent games, Sporting still enters the weekend just one point back of Red Bull New York for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, the club was dealt a small blow on Wednesday in the MLS All-Star Game when defender Aurelien Collin sustained two facial fractures after a collision with Chelsea's Michael Essien.
Collin is expected to miss 1-2 weeks and he has played a major role in Kansas City keeping nine clean sheets so far this season, starting all 21 games for the club.