SKC, Houston Rivalry Builds in MLS Playoffs

Houston and Sporting KC look to the Eastern Conference Final to solidify their rivalry in MLS
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, November 20, 2013

John Hefti Photography - Sporting KC, MLS

It’s that time of year again: no, not the falling of leaves and the smell of piping hot apple cider and pumpkin spice lattes, but rather it’s time for the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals.

And as Earth moves around the sun, so does Houston play Sporting KC in the MLS postseason. It is almost inevitable that when November rolls around, Houston turns on their rockets (cross sports reference intended) and they end up – with help from manager Dominic Kinnear at the helm from 2006 on – making it as runners-up to the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Final the past two years.

SKC manager Peter Vermes and company, however, want to be the victorious team in the Eastern Conference Finals this year against Houston, and hopefully past Western Conference Final winner, to then subsequently hoist the MLS Cup.

During a recent press conference, defender Chance Myers mentioned that he is expecting Houston – and Sporting – to come out ready for the match.

“Houston’s going to come out – it’s a one-game battle. They’re going to be rested; we’re going to be rested. There are a lot of things on the line,” Myers said.

Unlike the first leg of the Western Conference Final between Portland and Real Salt Lake, Houston and Sporting – as Myers alluded to - seemingly will play a one-off game because of the first leg’s 0-0 draw on Nov. 9.

Tactics

A few aspects of the game to look for during the second leg, which will be played at Sporting Park, include one specific area of the field, one man to be wary of on the Dynamo’s roster, and Kansas City’s forwards.

Brad Davis, who is a constant threat – especially on set pieces – because of his wicked left foot, is one to watch along with rightback Chance Myers. With the MLS veteran presumably riding a confidence high from his numerous call-ups for the US Men’s National Team, Myers has his work cut out, as those crosses will be coming in before the defender knows it. The KC man will need to cut off the passing lanes with which the Dynamo will try to convert crosses into shots, and shots into goals.

Another person, maybe a bit more unsuspecting who KC should keep their eye on, is Ricardo Clark. The former US international – who has recently been injured, but is a ‘probable’ to play – is always somewhat of a dark horse when playoffs come around. What might be more dangerous is that this year Clark seems to have taken some attention away from other players like Will Bruin, Boniek Garcia and Kofi Sarkodi, who can also never be counted out.

Cross, shot, goal

Turning to the forward situation at hand for Sporting Kansas City: It’s a delicate balance between overpowering and underwhelming Houston.

In past games, according to Kansas City stats, Sporting have taken 50 more shots than Houston, have taken only nine more shots on goal, and have produced three fewer goals than the Dynamo.

Those circumstances build up to the impending game on Saturday with Sporting needing to, which is easier said than done, not only take as many shots as possible, but have those shots be of good quality to turn into goals. So whether it’s Dom Dwyer – hopefully with his scorching goal-scoring tear from when he was on loan at Orlando City back in his legs – or Soony Saad, Claudio Bieler or Teal Bunbury, CJ Sapong or Jacob Peterson, Kansas City is ripe for the picking with goal scorers.

The catch, though, is in the catalyst.

Look for the catalyst for the forwards to start scoring to be that it’s a huge game with huge implications (if SKC win, the MLS Cup Final in Kansas City). What might also light a fire under the forward’s legs is that up until the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal against New England, a forward hadn’t scored since Dom Dwyer’s goal against DC United on Oct. 18 in the MLS regular season. After last week’s rest and this week’s training sessions, supporters should look to not only just the forwards but the whole team to be ready to come out guns a blazin.’

There’s something about Sporting

One can take a short look and see that between Houston and Sporting Kansas City – although not the longest or most cutthroat of rivalries, yet – has become one of the most exciting match-ups in MLS, regardless of whether it’s a regular or post-season game.

Judging by the amount of goals each team has put up in the past few meetings, one can assume the excitement between these two teams is not because of tremendous goal threats. Rather, the excitement is because of the quality of players on the field and the passion of the coaches on the side that will stir up the supporters’ voices and will contribute to the abundance of energy at Sporting Park.

Something to remember is in the past eight meetings between the Dynamo and Kansas City, two goals or fewer have decided each match. This upcoming Eastern Conference Final will be no different, and because of that, ladies and gents, be prepared to get louder.

NEXT UP: November 23 – MLS playoffs: Sporting KC v. Houston Dynamo, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan., 7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN.

Katherine RUPP

Nationality:
USA
College:
Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.
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