2013 Records (Wins-Draws-Losses, Goals Scored: Goals Allowed):
Houston Dynamo at home (12-5-4, 32:18)
Sporting Kansas City on the road (10-4-6, 23:17)
All-Time Series: Houston nine wins, Sporting six wins, eight draws
Houston’s Corey Ashe will miss first the first leg due to yellow card accumulation. The following players will miss the second leg if they pick up a card – Oscar Boniek Garcia for Houston and Seth Sinovic, Teal Bunbury, Aurelien Collin and Chance Myers for Sporting.
Sporting Kansas City are very happy to be one step closer to MLS Cup but will be nervous as well drawing the Houston Dynamo as their opponents. Houston has knocked Sporting out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Sporting has also struggled in Houston historically winning only twice there in ten attempts across all competitions.
Sporting though have played very well on the road this season including a win back in May at BBVA Compass Stadium which will give them a little bit of confidence heading into the match on Saturday. With Corey Ashe out, look for Sporting to try and exploit the new left back by playing Graham Zusi on the right side of midfield like he started in the first leg against New England Revolution.
Sporting will want to keep this match close and give themselves a chance to get a result and advance at home in the second leg. For them to be successful in this match they will need to make sure that their clearances defensively are crisp. Both of New England’s goals in the semi-final first leg were conceded off of poor clearances by the SKC back-line. Sporting is very solid defensively but can be caught by counterattacks and quick turnovers.
You can never count out Dominic Kinnear and his Houston Dynamo squad. Somehow and someway they figure out a way to get a result when it is needed the most. The team has been to the last two MLS Cup Finals and are looking to make a third straight trip.
One thing that the Dynamo struggled with in their series with New York Red Bulls was starting slowly as New York was able to score first in both of those matches. They were able to get two goals from Omar Cummings at critical times in those matches to get them here but those slow starts will not be good versus SKC. Sporting had more than 60-percent possession in each of their matches with New England, if they are able to do this again and early in the first leg then Houston may not have the stamina to make a late charge.
Houston will also need better contributions from forwards Will Bruin and Giles Barnes who were invisible in the New York series. The pair combined for a total of just one shot on target in two games and that’s just not acceptable in the postseason. They will need to step up their game because Houston really doesn’t have an option who can come in and play a full match. Omar Cummings hasn’t started a match since July 6 and since then has only played 124 minutes. Cam Weaver would be the best choice though he hasn’t started since September 14th and hasn’t played more than 21 minutes in a match since then.
Houston Dynamo will host Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday Nov. 9. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. ET and the match can be seen nationally on NBC.
First Leg Prediction: Sporting Kansas City 2, Houston Dynamo 0
Zusi will have a field day making crosses from the right side while Houston’s forwards continue to struggle. If Houston can keep this to a 1-goal defeat and somehow draw a yellow card for Aurelien Collin then it could make for a very interesting second leg.