Sporting Kansas City will get another shot at the Houston Dynamo tonight after dropping points in two recent match ups. I exchanged questions with Derek Stowers from over at our sister blog, Dynamo Theory, to get some insight.
Here are your Three Questions But Really Six:
We ask them...
The Blue Testament: Houston was unbeaten in the final 6 games, winning 12 points (four from SKC) along the way to jump into 4th place. Besides doing the exact opposite of Sporting KC, what has contributed to this strong finish?
Derek Stowers: There are a few possibilities to explain our finish coming into the playoffs. I think the club finally got over its “post Hurricane Harvey” form which saw us get just two points from four games. Finding the form that saw the Dynamo get as high as top of the Western Conference table prior to Harvey was absolutely key. This club has always been capable of making these kinds of runs and it was extremely fortunate to do so at the right time.
Another explanation is with our personnel. Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis both got hot with the Honduran National Team and took that momentum with them to Houston. With many international fixtures we also discovered we had a gem on the bench the whole season in Vicente Sanchez. During part of the stretch you mentioned, Sanchez amassed four assists in just three games and he only started in one of those matches. He brings a feistiness that had been lacking along with creativity, vision, and toughness defensively. These reasons helped propel Houston from 7th place to 4th in a tight Western Conference.
TBT: The Dynamo suffered a tough blow losing AJ DeLaGarza with a torn ACL. What will be missing from the defense and who can we expect to step in?
DS: AJ brings so much to the table that will be very difficult for his replacement to replicate. He’s a very smart defender that excels at 1v1 defending and is capable of pushing up the field to provide a quality cross. He’s also a strong leader along the back line exemplified by Wilmer Cabrera giving him the Captain’s armband against Chicago with Ricardo Clark and DaMarcus Beasley sitting out. Without him the players on the right side of the field will need to take some precautions with their movements and will need to track back without their mainstay behind them. I’d anticipate the versatile defender Jalil Anibaba, a player Sporting Kansas City fans may remember, to get the start at RB. He’s capable, but his passing skills will be a liability for us. It’s also possible for Kevin Garcia or Oscar Boniek Garcia to start, but with Anibaba usually the go-to defender off the bench, he’s likely the one to get the call.
TBT: Being in the playoffs for the first time since 13', what kind of expectations do fans have? Or are the Dynamo just a bonus right now with the Astros in the World Series?
finallya good time for Houston sports. The Dynamo are back in the playoffs, the Astros are in the World Series, Deshaun Watson looks to be the quarterback the Texans have needed for years, and the Rockets are set for a deep run this year. For Dynamo fans, it means a lot for us to be back. The playoffs are a place that we’ve become accustomed to with so much success early in the franchise. In fact, when the SKC/Dynamo game kicks off, the Dynamo will have played in more playoff games than any other club since 2006, the date the Dynamo came onto the MLS stage. The last three seasons of missing out have been trying as we underwent our own rebuild project with Dominic Kinnear departing, Owen Coyle coming and going, and Wade Barrett doing his best to keep things together before Wilmer Cabrera gave the club a much needed facelift in regards to personnel and tactics. It’s refreshing and feels right for us to be back.
I don’t really know what expectations fans have for how far we go. We’ve been streaky all season capable of taking on anyone while being able to drop points to anyone. Right now, we’re hot so I think we can at least get through the next round, but at the moment a very hungry SKC team stands in the way.
Dynamo Theory Predictions
4-3-3: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Leonardo, Adolfo Machado, Jalil Anibaba; Juan David Cabezas, Tomas Martinez, Ricardo Clark; Romell Quioto, Cubo Torres, Alberth Elis
3-2 to Houston. The Dynamo are tough at home and even though the absence of AJ DeLaGarza will be felt, I think they are able to send SKC home with another knock out round loss.
They ask us...
Dynamo Theory: The last time the Houston Dynamo were in a playoff game was the year that Sporting Kansas City won the MLS Cup. Since then, SKC has lost three consecutive road knock out round playoff games. How concerned are SKC fans with the match being in Houston and how important is it to make it to the next round after three seasons of failing to do so?
Cody Bradley: The goal the last two seasons has been securing that home playoff game (finishing above 5th). Vermes and the players were vocal about it. So yes, to answer your question, fans are VERY concerned the match is in Houston. They had all the chances in the world to accomplish that goal and they failed. They did it in the same fashion they've done for years now and its obviously all really frustrating.
But if they win this game, I suppose all of this anguish we have at the moment becomes irrelevant. Fans want the reward of playoff game, but this club promises far more than that. After winning the Open Cup they declared they weren't done with the silverware this year. The last few years have just been excruciating exits from the playoffs and KC is desperate for a deep run. CMP is a fortress and if they can just bring a game home to play in front of the Cauldron, then anything can happen.
DT: The Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City both played each other twice relatively recently. What were some of your takeaways from those games and how will they translate into this important game?
CB: My takeaway is that Sporting KC is terrible at finishing. In both matches they had the better of obsession, far more shots, corners and any other positive statistic you can come up with. This is of course except the only one that counts. The problem has plagued SKC for a couple years now. They control the game and create plenty of chances to win games but drop points because they can't find that last touch. In this last bad stretch Latif Blessing has kicked two or three balls OUT of an open net, somehow. I'm talking chances that would have been easier to score than to miss. But it is definitely not only his fault. This team needs someone to be lethal step up now that it is do-or-die.
DT: Sporting Kansas City has a 2-8-7 record on the road this season. What or who will be the X-factor to help them out Thursday?
CB: I wish I had an answer for you. But that is the big question and the big need right now. Someone has to step up. Benny Feilhaber looks to be nursing some sort of injury and Tim Melia is not fit to return yet. I'm looking for Daniel Salloi to become the hero. He has still been getting his legs underneath him and I'm waiting for him to realize how good he is. He is very goal-hungry (and Hungarian) and I think if he's given the opportunity he can be the guy to come through.
The Blue Testament Predictions
Dykstra, Sinovic, Opara, Besler, Zusi, Ilie, Espinoza, Feilhaber, Salloi, Rubio, Blessing
Going with wishful thinking and I'll say SKC grab it in extra-time! 2-1