Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo faced off in two simultaneous games on Wednesday night in Tucson, Arizona. The first game, you likely saw online as SKC absolutely ran over the Houston Dynamo in a chippy affair that saw multiple players sent off.
The game with the secondary squads definitely shared some of the physicality of the first team game, but not nearly as many goals.
Sporting KC - Adrian Zendejas, Jaylin Lindsey, Botond Barath, Graham Smith, Rodney Wallace, Wan Kuzain, Kelyn Rowe, Gianluca Busio, Yohan Croizet, Erik Hurtado, Tyler Freeman
Subs - Eric Dick for Zendejas (70th), Felipe Hernandez (SPR) for Croizet, Justin Bilyeu (SPR) for Busio (87th), Ethan Vanacore-Decker (SPR) for Kuzain (87th).
When Hernandez came on, initially he was on the wing for Croizet who left injured in a play where it appeared he was stepped on (yet he ended up with the yellow card). Hernandez slid into the midfield when Bilyeu came on and moved to the left wing pushing Freeman to the right wing. Then when Vanacore-Decker came on he took Freeman’s wing spot and Tyler Freeman fell back into the midfield with Kelyn Rowe playing holding mid.
NOTE: Today is a split-squad scrimmage, here is the other XI taking on SKC simultaneously (not streamed).— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) February 13, 2019
Deric; Samuels, Fuenmayor, K. Garcia, Lundkvist; Cerén, B. García; McNamara; Hairston, Peña, Rodriguez
To say it started out poor would be an understatement. Houston took the ball and put it in the back of the next within a few seconds of the kick-off. It happened so fast and there was no benefit of replay, so it was tough to catch what happened. Thankfully for Sporting KC, it appears the goal was called back for a handball because in unison all the SKC defenders yelled out.
It didn’t get much better from there despite the score being reset to 0-0. Sporting just generally struggled to play their game and possess the ball. Busio had an attempted back pass fly way up into the air and Zendejas struggled to control it. It fell to a Houston player who took a heavy touch and allowed Zendejas to pounce on the ball.
Shortly after that, as SKC kept attempting to play out of the back Zendejas has his attempted pass intercepted but again a poor touch from Houston caused the ball to roll back to Zendejas.
The first real good play for Sporting came from Yohan who went on quite the run through the midfield, darting between and around multiple defenders before he was ultimately violently chopped down as he attempted to play a ball through to Freeman.
Most of the first half was Houston actually controlling the possession and forcing the defense to stop multiple attempts. Graham Smith did particularly well as he shut down multiple attacks on his own.
The final 10-15 minutes (there was no game clock) saw Sporting finally settle down and get control of the game. It was the first time Rowe and Wallace had played with this squad of players, and though they played fine, it seemed to break the rhythm of the second team. It also could be because Houston is the best team they’ve played this offseason.
As a result of their extended possession, one Sporting attack finally led to a goal. A ball was sent into the box and cleared out but only as far as Yohan Croizet. He pulled the ball from his left to his right foot to evade a defender and send in a strike from 25-yards out. It pinged off the left post and banked into the back of the net on the right side. 1-0 Sporting KC.
After a very abbreviated halftime, it would take long for Houston to equalize. A turnover in the midfield saw a ball from to Memo Rodriguez who tried to chip Zendejas from pretty far out. Zendejas made a great fun back and leaped up to tip the ball. It hit the post and he gathered it in. As he got up to throw the ball in the AR on the nearside signaled it was a goal. Zendejas was incensed and took the ball over and was yelling at the ref, first in English, then in Spanish. Rowe, Wallace and others could be heard questioning the call as well. Regardless, the goal stood since there was no VAR to go review (unlike in the other game).
For several minutes afterwards Zendejas, who is very vocal as a keeper all the time, continued to talk to the AR from a distance in Spanish. Unfortunately, I don’t know Spanish to provide a translation. I’m sure he was just asking what his plans were for the night.
From there, the game got quite physical and there weren’t a ton of good chances for either team. Memo tried another chip but it was handled. The best chance for SKC in the second half came off a Wallace interception, which he did frequently throughout the game. After the steal he immediately found Hurtado who turned and fired a rocket off the half volley quickly, but the keeper handled it well.
Despite some fairly heavy fouls for Houston, they ended up with no yellow cards but SKC got ones for Wallace, Croizet, Barath and Rowe.
The next time we see Sporting KC will be when it counts for real. Next Thursday, February 21st, when they play Toluca FC from Liga MX in the CONCACAF Champions League.