With the bye week behind us, we can all try to push the bad memories of the match with the Philadelphia Union out of our brains and turn towards the stretch run in MLS. Sporting KC welcome their basement dwelling rivals, the Houston Dynamo, back to Kansas City. Houston have just 25 points and are last in the Western Conference but shockingly have still not been eliminated from the playoffs officially. Sporting are in fifth place sitting on 38 points and are six points above the red line.
While Sporting Kansas City will be looking to strengthen their hold on a playoff spot and even fight for their first home playoff game in several seasons, they will have more at stake. They will be attempting to win their sevenths straight home game which would tie a club record set both in 1998 and 2000. They are also currently running a 346-minute shutout streak that runs back to early July.
Despite Houston's poor form, they have done well when traveling to KC as of late. They have a five-game unbeaten streak (1-0-5) and they have won the last three meetings between the clubs across all competitions (though those were all in Houston). Additionally, with the mutual parting of ways between the club and former manager Owen Coyle, interim head coach Wade Barrett has turned around the defense. They are now allowing just 1.00 goal per game as opposed to 1.67 under Coyle. Both teams are still dealing with lots of injuries and there are other changes as well including Eric "Cubo" Torres going out on loan.
– Sporting KC: Jimmy Medranda (ridiculous set of yellow cards)
– Dynamo: None
Suspended Next Yellow Card:
– Sporting KC: Jimmy Medranda, Matt Besler
– Dynamo: None
– Sporting KC:
OUT: Justin Mapp (left calf strain), Nuno Andre Coelho (hamstring strain), Lawrence Olum (abdominal injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Tim Melia (back injury), Seth Sinovic (ankle injury), Chance Myers (hamstring strain)
OUT: Tyler Deric (left elbow sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: Will Bruin (left knee), DaMarcus Beasley (knee surgery), Andrew Wenger (calf injury), Agus (knee injury), Abdoulie Mansally (quad strain), David Horst (hamstring injury)
Sporting Kansas City's Last Five: W/L/D/W/L
Houston's Last Five: L/D/W/D/L
– Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer (12)
– Dynamo: Andrew Wenger (5)
Starting XI Prediction:
Abdul-Salaam – Opara – Besler – Sinovic
Feilhaber – Mustivar – Espinoza
Peterson – Dwyer – Zusi
Rest of the 18: Melia, Rubio, Porter, Ellis, Alvarado, Hallisey, Nagamura, Davis
Trying to nail down a starting lineup has been challenging with all the injuries the team has been dealing with. Finally (finally!) it seems like the team is getting relatively healthy. Mapp (who will never be healthy), Coelho and Olum are the only guys that for sure seem to be out. Nine SKC players went on loan to the Swope Park Rangers (and played pretty poorly) last week.
That poor performance likely leaves Tim Melia on the bench or could possibly leave him still loaned out to SPR with another rehab start in his future. He didn't look himself while Alec Kann has actually played pretty well. As of this writing, all the loanees are still listed on the SPR roster. That said, same day loan recalls wouldn't be that surprising.
Outside Melia, someone has to play left back with Medranda suspended. My bet is Seth Sinovic, though he didn't put in a full 90-minutes he has a huge experience advantage over Ever Alvarado. There is always a possibility that Zusi moves back to right back, SAS moves to the left, and then someone like Brad Davis takes over as a starting winger.
As for Houston, they may have a backup heavy lineup but one player likely to be available is Mauro Manotas who is a young designated player. He torched SKC in the US Open Cup and stuffed two goals in the back of the net in the process of eliminating the defending champions. Hopefully with so many other injuries no one will get Manotas the ball. That has been a problem for Houston as they have shown a huge inability to score goals. Since Barrett took over as coach the team is averaging 0.79 goals per game.
Houston's only real purpose is to play spoiler to SKC's playoff run and try to help Barrett remove his interim tag in favor of a more permanent job as head coach. Technically Houston are only 10 points back of a playoff spot, but with eight games to go they are basically eliminated.
Prediction: Sporting KC 1-0 Win
With the recent home form for SKC, the nice break to rest those weary legs after five games in 15 days and they Dynamo not being able to score goals, Sporting absolutely have no excuse to not go get all three points.