Kansas City Finally Beats Houston, Will Host MLS Cup

Sporting Park will host Real Salt Lake in the season’s biggest game
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, November 25, 2013

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

Once again in 2013, all sights will set upon Kansas City, this time for the MLS Cup Final being hosted at Sporting Park.

The stadium has hosted both the MLS All-Star Game and a United States Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifier this year. Sporting will take on Real Salt Lake for the league’s ultimate title.

Sporting have finally taken the monkey off their back and defeated Houston Dynamo after two disappointing years of playoff exits at their hands. The two-week buildup to the match made it nervy and dramatic.

In only the third minute of the match, an unexpected goal was scored by Houston’s Oscar Boniek Garcia. Sporting’s might and mettle would be put to the test already. This time, Sporting could make one great early chance count as CJ Sapong’s 14th minute goal from an errant pass from Bobby Boswell leveled things.

Possession was won by Sporting with 57.4% of the ball, but the game was extremely close. Both teams found few prodigious chances but the ones that were created could not be finished, these included Dwyer not being able to connect with a ball coming across in front of goal and Cam Weaver sending a perfect pass across goal with SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen moving the opposite direction to the high heavens. Houston missed Ricardo Clark and his ability to turn buildup play to shots on goal. Will Bruin was also absent for the Dynamo, and the forward had been in form during the earlier rounds of the playoffs.

Sporting had won the game with dominant performances in the midfield by Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, but the most important player of the night was Dom Dwyer.

It has been an incredibly journey for Dwyer this season. Once a reserve that was sent down to Orlando City, he lit up the third-division USL PRO and was put to the test again in MLS. Saturday night proved SKC manager Peter Vermes’ trust in Dwyer, as he scored the goal that would send Sporting into MLS Cup.

Said Dwyer of the journey he has made this season, “It’s been a crazy season. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I’m just pleased and excited, but we’ve got two weeks’ time now, so I’m trying to calm down right now.”

Feilhaber’s chipped assist to Dwyer was just as impressive, but Benny wanted to focus on Dwyer’s finish, saying, “I think it was the best finish of the year, to be honest.”

Now two of the hottest teams all season will do battle at Sporting Park in two weeks. Real Salt Lake, who missed the Western Conference regular season crown by one point to the Portland Timbers, qualified for the MLS Cup Final Sunday night after beating the Timbers, 1-0 and 5-2 on aggregate.

Sporting and RSL squared off once this season, a hard-fought 2-1 win for SKC at the Rio Tinto. The winning goal in that game was scored by center back Ike Opara deep into stoppage time.

Sporting has matched up well with Real Salt Lake in recent years. Since 2011, Sporting and RSL have played four times, three games of which were wins for Sporting KC. Of these four games, none of them have included more than three goals in total. Kansas City has not lost a match at home to RSL since 2009.

RSL manager Jason Kreis’ style of play is almost identical to Sporting’s, a possession-oriented team that wins matches in the midfield and creates several chances. Being at home will undoubtedly help Sporting in making the game theirs, but the team that wins the Cup will have to be the one that takes control of possession and can finish. Salt Lake’s offensive threats in Robbie Findley and Javier Morales are forces to be reckoned with, but RSL may be missing Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio due to an injury sustained in the Conference Semifinal second leg against LA Galaxy.

NEXT UP: December 7 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan. 4 p.m. EST, ESPN


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.