Kansas City, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - A spot in the MLS Cup final is on the
line on Saturday as the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City square off
in the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals at Sporting Park.
Both teams suffered first-leg defeats in the semifinal round before rallying
for spectacular victories in the second leg to reach the conference final
In the first leg of the tie on Nov. 9, both clubs fought hard for 90 minutes
at BBVA Compass Stadium, but played to a scoreless draw which set up an all-
or-nothing second leg.
Houston's best opportunity came late in the half when forward Will Bruin came
charging down the field and decided to have a strike on goal from about 40
yards out that just grazed the crossbar on its way into the stands.
Sporting didn't fare much better over the duration of the match after
outlasting New England on Wednesday in the semifinals. The visitors best
opportunity came in the 65th minute as defender Aurelien Collin got free for a
header on goal off a corner kick, but it went just over the bar.
The scoreless draw between the sides was typical of two evenly-matches sides
and Dynamo players expect an equally tight affair on Saturday.
"We talked about it before we played them here at home, what it was going to
be like, and it was exactly that. So I don't see why it'll change on
Saturday," said Houston captain Brad Davis.
"The coaches have the same mentality that they instill in their players: it's
a group that fight and scrap for every ball and don't take days off, that's
the way we are, that's the way they are, so we tend to clash. They tend to be
very physical games, that's fine with us," Davis continued.
The teams have met nine times since the start of last season and last year's
Eastern Conference semifinal first leg -- a 2-0 Dynamo victory -- was the only
occasion either side won with a margin of more than one goal. The four games
between the clubs this season have produced two scoreless draws and only three
Sporting will be looking to exorcise some demons in front of their home fans
as Houston has been responsible for Sporting's playoff exit in each of the
last two postseasons.
Kansas City has won just once in the last five meetings between the teams at
Sporting Park, but head coach Peter Vermes praised his side's effort in
"I thought we did one aspect of what we wanted to do, which is that we didn't
want to give up any goals (in Houston)," Vermes said. "I thought that was an
important aspect of the game. That wasn't an easy game to play in and we got a
result. Now, it doesn't mean anything, now it's just a final home game."
Sporting is also hoping to get some injury relief as midfielders Lawrence Olum
and Peterson Joseph should be available for selection. Olum suffered a
fractured fibula in the semifinals, while Joseph has not been on the training
pitch in two weeks.
SKC also has a bit of a historical advantage. In the 46 all-time two-leg
series in MLS history, the teams that have hosted the second leg have advanced
25 times, while the home team in that return match has gone 28-8-10.
The Sports Network