After a huge win over FC Dallas at Sporting Park, Sporting KC have put themselves in a great position heading into Houston tonight. If they can steal all three points from this scrappy match, Kansas City will be just one point off the lead for the Supporters' Shield.
I spoke with Derek Stowers from the SB Nation blog, Dynamo Theory, about the midweek clash.
1) The Blue Testament: Houston needs to make up 6 points and leap frog 3 teams in their final 5 games to get into the playoffs. There are so very tough matches remaining, but are fans still holding out hope?
Derek Stowers: While the Dynamo aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, most fans have given up hope on a potential playoff spot. A very difficult summer with call-ups, injuries, and a handful of suspensions led to an uninspiring run which has persisted and prepared fans for the reality that the Dynamo may miss out on the post-season for the 3rd time in club history.
2) TBT: Finally, we have run into another team that is in same boat with injuries. Sarkodie, Beasley, and Garrido are among the injured for the Dynamo. How has Owen Coyle shuffled the lineup around? What Houston player(s) should KC fans watch for Wednesday night?
DS: Sarkodie had been injured, but was able to play 45 minutes against the Philadelphia Union last Sunday so I would expect him to be ready to play unless DaMarcus Beasley is somehow fit enough to play. Garrido recovered from his hamstring injury that he suffered with the Honduran National Team remarkably quickly as he also played 45 minutes against the Union, but a stoppage time yellow card was enough for him to earn a yellow card accumulation suspension.
The other injured man that has contributed to a few positive performances has been Alex Lima who the Dynamo acquired from the Chicago Fire earlier this year. He’s been able to plug in anywhere in the midfield and even at left back and his ability to pressure defenses and create chances will be missed.
I expect Coyle to start Sarkodie at RB (unless Coyle opts to play Boniek Garcia there) and Sheanon Williams at LB. In central midfield, Ricardo Clark will get the start, but his partner is a big mystery. It could be (and has been this season) Nathan Sturgis, Boniek, Giles Barnes, or Brad Davis. I’d bet on Sturgis or Davis depending on whether or not Cubo starts.
KC fans should look out for Will Bruin and Ricardo Clark. Bruin has been on a bit of a goal scoring dry spell and he’s been pushing himself to get in good positions. Clark always brings it to these rivalry games and I’d expect nothing less.
3) TBT: Cubo Torres has yet to go a full 90 or even score a goal. Why hasn't he been able to get going this season?
DS: When Cubo first arrived he wasn’t 90 minutes fit and needed a bit of time to acclimate to the team. He also successfully beat a scandal (just in time too) which likely added a lot of stress for a young player. Cubo is struggling to link up with players and make dangerous runs for himself. Dynamo Theory’s Alicia Tolar wrote a nice piece about her thoughts on Cubo’s struggles. I think the offseason will give Cubo time to recharge and fit in with the club.
Dynamo Theory Lineup and Score Predictions
Lineup: 4-4-1-1 Tyler Deric; Sheanon Williams, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, Kofi Sarkodie; Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, Nathan Sturgis, Oscar Boniek Garcia; Giles Barnes; Will Bruin
Prediction: 3-3 because we’ve tied all other regular season games with each other. Bring on the goals!
1) Dynamo Theory: This is the 2nd week in a row where Sporting Kansas City has played double week games with the majority of the games on the road. SKC will have made trips to Portland, Orlando, and now Houston in just 2 short weeks. What kind of adjustments will Peter Vermes make to account for tired legs and travel fatigue?
Cody Bradley: Well, that is a very good question! One thing does seem to be sure though. The practices were closed on Monday and for the most part Tuesday, indicating he is indeed shuffling players around and trying out new things. This is something PV has been forced into quite a bit the last two seasons with injuries and call ups, so it isn't anything new. He has always been great at showing confidence in his bench players and rookies. Every guy on the team has played very real minutes and the rookies are no longer shaken by simply being out on the field. This team has a lot of talent coming off the bench and you can be sure they are all ready for the chance.
We can probably expect to see a lot more of newcomer Jordi Quintilla over this stretch. Having another body in the attacking mid can help with Feilhaber getting some rest. Krisztian Nemeth has picked up a bit of a knock, so Peter may try and get away with giving him a break in Houston.
2) DT: Since a disastrous 5-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in August, SKC has struggled to pickup points putting together a 1-4-1 record. Has the road heavy stretch played into the results, or is something not clicking for the club?
CB: I believe it has been a combination of several things. There have been holes in the defense for most of the season since Ike Opara went down. Kevin Ellis has played out of his mind and way better in the CB role next to Besler than anyone would have thought. But, he is not Ike Opara. So some lacking areas of the squad were finally getting exposed. Key injuries to Roger Espinoza and Soni Mustivar (Benny was suspended one of the games). Even some incredibly bad refereeing that PV took a fine for. They started to lose confidence and were not playing with the same swag.
However, the 3-1 win over Dallas was very encouraging. They looked like themselves again at home in front of the fans. Everyone on the field was better and it sure looked like they have pulled out of the slump. A tough rivalry match away at Houston will be another tough test.
3) DT: While the intenseness of Sporting Kansas City and Dynamo games always draws my interest, the Dynamo have not been playing their usual brand of "playoff soccer" that they tend to do this time of year. What does this match mean for SKC? Is it a chance to get some other players some rest from a hectic schedule? Or is it about getting into a higher playoff seeding?
CB: don't know if they see it as a chance, or more of a necessity. Vermes will never take a team lightly, especially with the kind of games these two teams always have. He was very blunt on Monday after practice when asked about the US Open Cup Final and what it means for his MLS lineups. "If you're asking me, the Open Cup final, is it important? It's hugely important to us, absolutely," Vermes told reporters on Monday. "But we have a game Wednesday. That's all I can deal with right now. All the other stuff doesn't matter. I have two games before that. There's nothing else to talk about." So yes, he is focusing on this game!
The Western Conference has just been crazy this year. We were the Supporters' Shield favorites for a while, then lose a few games and we are all of a sudden checking over our shoulders for the red playoff line. But then.... we beat Dallas and now once again the SS is not out of reach. With a win against the Dynamo, SKC will be at 47 points. Just 1 point off the SS lead. If they can get 3 points tonight, the dream of winning all 3 trophies this season will be alive and well. Especially with the returns of Espinoza and Opara coming at some point.
The Blue Testament Lineup and Score Predictions
(4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Besler, Ellis, Myers, Mustivar, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Peterson, Dwyer, Zusi
Sporting KC 2 - 2 Houston Dynamo