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Sporting KC vs. Columbus Crew: When a draw feels like a loss

Sporting Kansas City stay at the top of the Eastern Conference with a draw against the Columbus Crew, but the Supporters' Shield is now all but out of reach.

Jamie Sabau - Getty Images

Under normal circumstances, playing to a draw against Columbus Crew in the Crew's home stadium would be considered a solid result for Sporting Kansas City.

However, when you're hanging on to slim hopes of capturing the Supporters' Shield trophy with little margin for error, letting three points slip from your grasps in the dying moments of a match seems almost as painful as a loss.

In the big picture, the 1-1 draw at Crew Stadium still pushes Sporting KC in the right direction as they head into the tail-end of the regular season. Still, by only earning a single point against Columbus instead of three, Sporting Kansas City's prospects of claiming the Supporters' Shield are all but dead. Barring a complete collapse by the San Jose Earthquakes in the last two matches of the regular season, the Supporters' trophy will be staying on the west coast in 2012 (The LA Galaxy claimed the Supporter's Shield last season).

At the moment, San Jose sits atop of the Western Conference with 64 points. Sporting KC, first place in the East, now stand at 59 points. Both clubs have two matches remaining on their schedule, with San Jose yet to play the LA Galaxy and the Portland Timbers. Kansas City still have the New York Red Bulls, as well as the Philadelphia Union.

At this point, Sporting Kansas City need the Earthquakes to lose both of their remaining matches. The Quakes falling to the LA Galaxy (50 points)? That's definitely feasible. San Jose losing to the Portland Timbers (30 points)? Eh, not so much.

And it's not as if Sporting Kansas City's final two matches will be shoo-ins for all six points either. New York have been extremely tough to beat at home in 2012, having lost only twice at Red Bull Arena this season, although Sporting KC were able to defeat the Red Bulls 2-0 in New York on September 19th.

With New York yet to punch their ticket to the playoffs, and with revenge in mind, one would have to think the Red Bulls will be at the top of their game when Sporting KC come to town on October 20th.

The Philadelphia Union match at Livestrong Sporting Park on October 24th should be three points for the home side, but in regards to capturing the Supporters' Shield, it's essentially all for nil at this point.

Sporting Kansas City's hopes of "painting the wall" by adding the Supporters' Shield trophy to go along with the US Open Cup trophy were dashed with the draw against the Crew.

It's also worth pointing out that finishing in first place in the Eastern Conference is not a sure thing for Sporting KC either. The Chicago Fire are still nipping at their heels, trailing Kansas City by only three points, with matches against the New England Revolution (29 points), and DC United (54 points) remaining.

Sporting KC would be best served collecting at least four points out of the remaining six available to ensure that they finish the regular season at the top of the Eastern Conference, and in prime position come playoff time.