After eliminating the Dynamo from Open Cup play on July 21st, Sporting KC will host Houston again on Saturday for a MLS Western Conference showdown. Last time around, the teams played like the rivals they are. There were plenty of chippy fouls and cards handed out.
Houston comes off of a 3-0 statement win over the Galaxy and KC comes into the match fresh off their first defeat in a month and looking to get back to their winning ways in front of the Cauldron.
We ask them...
1- Houston was up a goal on SKC and looked better for most of the first half before a red card and conceding late goals last week. Will they switch things up or come out with the same game plan?
DT - Against LA the Dynamo controlled where the ball went even if they didn’t control the ball. They were able to limit Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard’s effectiveness by limiting possession that penetrated our half and back line. It was a strategy that worked despite tired legs and missing players. I’d expect the same level of focus in this match that we saw against LA and the same level of intensity that was brought before the red card in our teams’ last meeting.
1b) Is Cubo going to get his first start? What is your impression of him after two appearances?
DT - I don’t think that Cubo will be getting his first start just yet, but he’s very close to cracking into the starting group. Coyle said in the post game press conference that he would like to see a lineup that featured Will Bruin, Cubo, and Giles Barnes. However, that’s probably a few weeks away. Cubo came off the bench before the 70th minute against LA and we could see him come on at a similar time unless he does earn the starting nod.
What has impressed me most about him is how well he’s connecting with players around him in such a short period of time. He’s a little hesitant to go to goal sometimes, but given more time and more training his comfort level with the team will continue to rise.
2 - The Dynamo picked up a huge 3 points with 3-0 win over the Galaxy last week and are due to get back DaMarcus Beasley and Giles Barnes from the Gold Cup. Is this team fit to make a run and jump 2 spots to get into the playoffs?
DT - That is certainly our hope. We’ve been plagued by injuries and call-ups (and injuries as a result of call-ups), but getting guys back while the team is starting to click – at least if the LA game were an indication, is key. Beasley is a top LB (possibly THE top LB) in the league and Barnes had an outstanding Gold Cup, even if it were at the expense of the US. The two will add depth, experience, and plenty of quality to our squad which was sorely missed while they were away.
3 - These matches are always a good time, with the exception of the Brad Davis and Roger Espinoza fuss last time around. OK.. maybe that was fun too. Will we see that continue? I'm setting your over/under on number of cards handed out at 4!
DT - It’s always a bout when these clubs get together and it proves to be some of the most entertaining and frustrating soccer of the year. Our first regular season meeting was a 4-4 freak of a game and then our Open Cup Quarterfinals match proved to be a very heated game. I assume you mean the over/under on cards set at 4 implies 4 cards per side, because if it is, it’s very agreeable.
Lineup and score predictions..
Probably Lineup: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, Sheanon Williams; Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, Nathan Sturgis, Leonel Miranda; Giles Barnes; Will Bruin
Prediction: 3-3 with plenty of cards, crap goals, and a controversial PK or two.
They ask us...
1 – With Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and MVP candidate Benny Feilhaber having played in the MLS All-Star game, how does Peter Vermes manage his team considering the mid-week friendly match?
TBT - Always hard to predict with Peter, but I wouldn't be surprised if both Feilhaber and Zusi were given some rest. In the RSL match, PV had Benny on the bench the first half. But then Peter must have remembered that he is in fact, Benny Feilhaber... so he brought him on in the 2nd half. It could be a very similar situation this weekend. But it would be nice if SKC could lock it down so Benny (and Zusi) can actually get some real rest. Besler, however, is really the only CB left and just doesn't have much of a choice in the matter. But Besler is always fit and ready to play.
This team prides itself of the depth and having confidence in every player on the field. So if PV wants to rest a guy or two, there is quality all throughout the squad. This will be a solid lineup that is ready to get back to winning ways after dropping points at RSL.
2 – Sporting Kansas City has not lost at home all year, and while SKC hasn’t been poor on the road, they’ve been hardly dominant away from Sporting Park. What makes Sporting Park such an advantageous place to play, and why hasn’t SKC been able to produce a bit more away from home?
TBT - The stadium itself is what makes it so advantageous. It's beautiful and professional at every turn for the players. It is compact. The fans are right on top of the players. Keepers can hear full conversations being had in the front row of the Cauldron. The chanting and the singing absolutely do not stop the entire game. It is "Relentless" (as the hashtag went).
The stadium is wonderful, and then it gets filled with Kansas Citians who have always had an affinity for soccer. This town is incredibly loyal and passionate about the sports teams here. And then on top of all that, what makes it so difficult to play there, is just plain and simply a fantastic squad that plays for their coach and for each other.
As for the quality away from home... it is hard for me to see it like that. They have been hit very hard by injuries and call ups again this season. Considering the lack of experience and backups on the back line, I think everyone in KC has to be pleased that the loss to RSL was just the 2nd loss in 3 months. Sporting was a very tired and depleted team, and the loss before that was an incredibly unlucky own goal that took away 2 points. So the home record is fantastic and if they can keep picking up points on the road here and there, KC is going to be in the hunt for the Supporters' Shield at the end of the season.
3 – The Houston Dynamo moved to the Eastern Conference back in 2011 which was the same year as the SKC rebrand and since then our clubs have had some of the most fierce, competitive, and entertaining matches around. What are some of your favorite, hated, or memorable moments between our two sides?
TBT - Well the hated moments have led to my most memorable moment in this match up. The two years before meeting in the 2013 playoffs, the Dynamo were the side to eliminate Sporting KC. It was tough to lose to the same team like that, but it set up an incredible 2013 Eastern Conference Final. The first leg was away at Houston and the teams fought and scrapped to a scoreless draw. Then in the 2nd leg, Houston scored the first goal just a few minutes into the game. One thing that must be noted about this match, is that Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer were both still trying to prove themselves as starters for Peter. Feilhaber wasn't all the way Sporting Fit and Dom had returned from a loan and was battling with DP Claudio Bieler as the starting striker. The go ahead goal for Sporting in the 2nd half is still a vivid moment for me. Benny made a world class, perfect little chip over (and between) the defense for Dom, who beat one more sliding defender and slotted it home. I think that is when everyone realized the club really had something in Feilhaber, and it cemented Dom's starting job. Now that final turned out to be one of the most intense sporting events I have ever seen, but that game with Houston still sticks out and is one of my favorites. This is a great little rivalry we have here.
Lineup and Score Predictions...
(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Amadou Dia, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Chance Myers, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson
Sporting KC 3 - 2 Houston Dynamo