Columbus (3-1-3) at Kansas City (3-2-2), 4 p.m.
Kansas City, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City will battle for top spot in the Eastern Conference on Sunday when the two sides meet at Sporting Park.
Columbus enters the weekend atop the East on 12 points, followed closely by four teams - including Sporting - on 11 points apiece.
Kansas City, reigning MLS Cup champions, spurned a chance to take the lead at the summit after it suffered a 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution last time out. Sporting was reduced to 10 men in the second half due to Aurelien Collin's red card, which allowed the Revs to steal a home win with two stoppage-time goals.
Sporting head coach Peter Vermes labeled the red card as the turning point in the match, adding that he did not agree with the referee's decision.
"The game wasn't a 2-0 game by any means," Vermes said after the match. "I thought that we had very good run of play. I thought our possession was good away from home.
"I have to say I think the red card was extremely harsh. I don't think it was a tackle on the field. There were a few other ones that could have been on both sides of the ball, but there was nothing in that tackle that I think warranted a red card. I think it changes the game a little bit, but I thought we managed the situation all the way up until the first goal. But definitely it's not a 2-0 game, no doubt."
The loss snapped a five-game unbeaten run for Sporting, which had not suffered a league defeat since falling to Seattle Sounders FC in its first match of the season.
Columbus, meanwhile, enters Sunday's contest on a run of three successive 1-1 draws, most recently dropping two points in a tie with Red Bull New York.
The Crew had taken the lead through Jairo Arrieta's first-half penalty, but a second-half strike from Bradley Wright-Phillips saw the two sides share the spoils.
Columbus has suffered just one defeat thus far, and Sunday's clash should provide the team with a chance to prove that they belong in contention for first place in the East.
"It's a great opportunity for our team to play the best team in MLS last year, the champions and a very good team," Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter told the club's official website. "I think this year they're really strong again. It's a great challenge for us. We're excited to go in and hopefully play a good game."
Sunday's clash also provides Berhalter with a chance to test his side against a team of high pedigree, something the former U.S. international relishes.
"(Sporting has) a certain way to play, a specific way to play," Berhalter continued. "I wouldn't exactly say it's like ours, but it's very offense- oriented. It's very physical. It's a little bit more direct and they're also very good at set pieces. It's a very strong team, very good players in the middle. They have National Team-quality players. It's going to be a tough game."