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Sporting KC vs Houston Dynamo: Preview, Injuries and Quotes

SKC faces a familiar foe Saturday

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Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo FC

When: Saturday, May 29, 2021 | 7:30 p.m. CT (7:38 kickoff)

Where: Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

How to Watch/Stream: | Bally Sports KC (regionally) | Bally Sports Midwest (regionally) |
ESPN+ (out of market)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)

Sporting Kansas City (4-2-1, 13 points) plays host to longtime rival Houston Dynamo FC (3-2-2, 11 points) Saturday evening. Players and coaches may change, but Sporting KC and the Dynamo playing each other never does. The two teams faced off on May 12th, will see each other again in October and a playoff match would not be unlikely.

Houston comes into the weekend in fourth place, having won 2 of their last three games, with a won 1-0 win over Kansas City in Houston, a 3-1 loss at the Colorado Rapids and a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps back at home. The Dynamo have been strong at home with all three of Houston's wins occurring at BBVA Stadium (3-0-1) while they have taken only a single point on the road (0-2-1), a 1-1 draw at bottom of the table FC Dallas. While they have not been extremely good on the road, they have scored on each road trip so they will not go down without a fight.

Sporting KC enter the match on a little bit of a roll, winning three of the last four, scoring three goals in each of the last two and the only loss in that run at Houston. Alan Pulido has come alive and shown why SKC shelled out the big bucks, scoring three of his four goals in the last two matches.

Hungarian Homegrown Daniel Salloi has seemed to regain his 2018 form, scoring two of his three goals with an assist in the last two matches as well.

About that last match with Houston

SKC’s last loss was at Houston back on May 12th in a match where Kansas City dominated, or at least had an edge in most stats. SKC outshot (16-5), on goal (4-1), possessed (55.5% - 44.5%), passed (514-414) and most other stats except the one that counted.

Both Pulido and Gadi Kinda were still working towards fitness so not at their peak form and then Captain Johnny Russell started but subbed off in the 20th minute to be replaced by Salloi. Much of the first half SKC struggled a bit, but Houston was not great either. The second half saw SKC come out stronger and playing better but a weak giveaway in midfield led to a direct run and chance on goal which is all Huston needed. SKC looked better, created opportunities and looked more like the team they wanted to be but failed to finish.

SKC Manager Peter Vermes spoke about the last match in this week's press conference and seeing signs of progress in that game:

“The ability to go forward. I’ve said before, you can talk about possession all day long, but possession means nothing if you don’t have purpose behind it. So, when you have possession and you are creating high quality chances, that is what you strive for, at least that is what we strive for. In that game we did that in the second half, I still think at times we missed some things. There is forward progress but are we there? No, we are not there yet. We still have more to go, a lot more to go.”

While Vermes likes the high-quality chances being created, he does want more from those chances:

“There is the other aspect of wanting to have the ball and continue to create high quality chances and then become more deadly with those high-quality chances as well. We want to execute at a higher level than we have been.

Health report:

For Sporting Kansas City, everyone is in theory available with only Nicolas Isimat-Mirin being listed as questionable with his hamstring. It is unlikely that “Isi” is in the lineup as Vermes all but ruled him out this week. When asked when the French defender might return, Vermes responded:

Isi in his last match with SKC
Thad Bell

“We are kind of slowly building him up, we had a little bit of one step forward, one step backwards, one step forward cycle with him so we took a different approach, so we are trying to slowly build him back up to get in the rhythm of training to increase his fitness and go from there. I don’t have a timetable because I want him to get in a strong rhythm of training. When he gets training sessions, quite a few of them under his belt and he feels good.”

Russell had left the Houston game early and made a late game appearance at San Jose but seems to be working his way back to fitness.

Vermes: “Johnny had a muscle strain, and we are just trying to be smart, When you are out you lose some fitness.”

Houston only has Sam Junqua listed as out for undisclosed reasons.

Lineup:

Vermes likes to find consistent lineups and with a full week of training since the last match and the next game not until June 12th, it would seem that fatigue should not be a concern for availability.

So 4-3-3? Obviously...

Pulido will leave for the Mexican National Team camp after the match and Vermes might not push him the full 90 so he can go to camp not fatigued but there should be no reason SKC’s #9 wouldn’t start.

Salloi has played well, very well this year and is combining with Pulido for a dangerous attack so barring last-minute injuries, expect the Hungarian Homegrown to start on the left.

With Russell returning to fitness there is a chance he could start but it is more likely Khiry Shelton again gets the nod with Russell getting second half minutes.

The midfield will probably stay the same with Kinda, Roger Espinoza and Gianluca Busio remaining at the d-mid spot, it has seemed to work well Busio at the 6 and Ilie Sanchez dropping back to center back. If Vermes moves Ilie back to the 6, expect Busio to stay in mid and either Kinda or Espinoza start on the bench.

On defense? So far Luis Martins has been the starter with Amadou Dia having a knock early on. Andreu Fontas has played well for SKC and seemed to be in a groove before missing last match but should be back in the center back spot with Ilie, his fellow Catalan speaking friend next to him. Right back might be in question with veteran Graham Zusi getting rested last game and Jaylin Lindsey not only playing well but adding a goal as well.

And there is no doubt that Tim Melia starts when healthy. John Pulskamp filled in well when Melia was injured at the start of the season, and he should get some more time throughout the year but the team is better with Tim in goal.

Full capacity:

Sporting KC can have a max capacity crowd for the first time since Houston visited on March 7th, 2020. The last pre-pandemic game in Kansas City was a fun one, a 4-0 win over the Dynamo. Almost 15 months later and many games at slowly increasing attendance levels, SKC will get the benefit of a full crowd,

Predictions:

Predictions in any sport are a suckers bet because so much can go wrong and perhaps even more so in soccer where just one score changes everything. But it is almost a requirement for previews so....

Sporting KC 3 - 1 Houston

Why?

Houston has scored in each road game and even at SKC’s best, they are vulnerable to a single mistake costing them on a counter. They have been better about minimizing those chances this year but do not be surprised if former SKC speedster Tyler Pasher (if healthy) doesn’t slide one in against the run of play.

On the KC side, they are starting to find a groove and the question is whether they can continue and build upon that run of form. IF (always a big if) they continue that form, SKC can put some shots on goal and a couple should go in.

Also, a full crowd!

Let us know your thoughts below. Too optimistic? Too pessimistic?