Sights on MLS Cup for Sporting KC

Can Sporting Kansas City finally overcome arch rivals Houston Dynamo?
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, November 18, 2013

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

One game separates Sporting Kansas City from the 2013 MLS Cup Final, the pinnacle of Major League Soccer and a stage in the playoffs Sporting has not reached since 2004. 

If Sporting can defeat Houston this weekend, the final would be hosted at Sporting Park and would be the 2nd Cup final in as many years, with 2012’s US Open Cup being won at Sporting Park by SKC in penalty kicks over Seattle.

The Open Cup victory was an ugly, gritty match and that’s likely going to be exactly what takes place at Sporting Park on Saturday, Nov. 23, when Sporting takes on their arch rivals Houston Dynamo.  Houston has made its way to MLS Cup in the last two years at the expense over Sporting KC.  2011’s Conference Final was one game at Sporting Park and a 2-0 win for the Dynamo.  The playoff format changed in 2012 to a two-legged Conference Final and Houston triumphed 2-1. 

The approach to this match changes completely compared to last year, when Sporting headed into the second leg down by two goals to Houston and were only able to get back 1. This time KC is level with Houston on aggregate at 0-0. Sporting KC’s mission in this year’s second leg is simple: Stay focused on defense and score goals. Furthermore, Sporting wins most of its home games when scoring first and scoring fast.

This season, Sporting has had the best of Houston over three regular season games, with an aggregate score of 2-1 over those matches. In 2012, Houston had the best of Sporting over three games with an aggregate score of 3-1. Sporting also ended Houston’s home unbeaten record that lasted over a season long in 2013. 

After a great performance as a substitute in Sporting’s Conference Semifinal win over New England and a rather surprising omission from the first leg of the Conference Final from Argentine DP Claudio Bieler, it will be interesting to see whether SKC manager Peter Vermes will include him in the home leg. A possession-minded forward that can connect passes and get on the end of through balls, Bieler is a player much better suited for a home match where Sporting can control possession and will dominate in shots on goal. The decision whether or not Bieler plays is one that will make or break Sporting’s quest for the 2013 MLS Cup.

Ninety minutes from MLS Cup is easier said than done, but this seems like the year for Sporting KC to finally overcome Houston.

NEXT UP: November 23 – MLS playoffs: Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan. 7:30 p.m. EST, NBC Sports.

Skylar ROLSTAD

Nationality:
USA
College:
Univ. of Kansas
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
AC Milan
A student at the University of Kansas. He writes for the Sporting Kansas City club column for Soccer Newsday and is a regular at Sporting Park. His passion for soccer can best be described as unhealthy.
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