John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
Sunday afternoon, BBVA Compass Stadium will host its first playoff game. The Houston Dynamo will look to capitalize on home field advantage going into the first leg of their playoff match against rival Sporting Kansas City.
The Chicago Fire were a worthy opponent. They seemed to pair well with the Dynamo and had a similar style and we knew it'd be a tough game. Houston showed up confident and controlled the match, getting a well deserved win over the Fire.
This match against Sporting Kansas City is different.
Not to discredit Chicago in any way, but I felt Houston would get through because ultimately they were the better team. Sporting Kansas City is the best team in the Eastern Conference - and we'll have to beat the best if we want another shot at the MLS Cup. It doesn't get any bigger than this. The good thing is - we've been in this situation before, and we all know how that played out.
Over the last few days, the "I believe that we will win" chant has been stuck in my head. I can remember seeing Brad Davis and Brian Ching at the initial Walker End meeting talking about how our team was signing the song after their win in last year's Eastern Conference Championship over SKC.
We did it last year, and I'll say this about this year's match up - I believe that we will win.
SKC12 > SKC11
2012's version of Sporting Kansas City may look similar to last year's on paper, but this team is better and more dangerous. The offensive combination of Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury, and Graham Zusi make Sporting a fun team to watch. While Bunbury is out for the season due to a knee injury, SKC have never looked back and finished the season on a high note. They'll show up on Sunday riding a 12 game unbeaten streak. Kamara leads the team in scoring with 11, while Sapong has added 9 goals this season.
Sporting finished the season with the second most points in the entire league with 63. Not only has their offense been good, their defense has stolen the show in 2012. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson leads the league with a 0.794 goals against average and Sporting has given up a measly 27 goals this year.
Sunday's match will feature a few stories to watch. Control of the midfield will most likely be key to winning (or losing) - with Graham Zusi and Brad Davis looking to play hero for their respective clubs. Zusi led MLS with 15 assists, while Davis finished the year with 12. Both will be key to getting the ball to their top goalscorers. Defender Corey Ashe will have his hands full with the stronger and taller (obviously) Kei Kamara, who is always looking to take the Dynamo down.
A New Rival is Born
Sporting Kansas City and Houston have quickly become a nice rivalry in Major League Soccer. At times rivalries can seem to be fabricated - like ours with FC Dallas for example. While Dallas has never given us much of a fight over the years, our matches with SKC are quickly becoming classics.
I'm not buying the "we're not out for revenge" comments some SKC players have said over the last few days. The Dynamo knocked out a very good team last year in the Eastern Conference Championship, then celebrated in front of their fans. Revenge is definitely on their mind.
Regardless of how well Sporting has been this season, the Dynamo don't have to be intimidated by their season results. In three matches against each other this year, Houston and Sporting tied twice and the Dynamo won the other match. While SKC is riding a nice unbeaten streak into the playoffs, the Dynamo haven't lost at home since June 2011. In fact, in the last seven matches between these two clubs in Houston, SKC has a record of 0-4-3.
Let's make sure we do our part as fans and show up early, get loud, and help continue our tradition of winning in BBVA Compass Stadium. If you can't make it out, the Men in Orange will be on NBC with a national audience.
See you at the game!
HOUSTON DYNAMO v SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sun., Nov. 4, BBVA Compass Stadium (3:30 pm ET/2:30 pm CT; NBC)
REFEREE: Edvin Jurisevic
SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Adam Garner;
4th: Fotis Bazakos
INJURY REPORT: HOUSTON DYNAMO -- NONE REPORTED ... SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: FW Teal Bunbury (L knee ACL tear); DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); MF Paulo Nagamura (L ankle sprain); PROBABLE: MF Julio Cesar (R quad strain); MF Roger Espinoza (R ankle sprain)
WARNINGS: HOU: Brad Davis, Tally Hall (suspended next yellow card)
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD:KC 3 wins, 17 GF ... HOU 6 wins, 21 GF ... Ties 6
2012 HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 1 win, 3 GF ... KC 0 wins, 2 GF ... 2 ties
AT BBVA COMPASS STADIUM:
7/18: HOU 2, KC 1 (Carr 25, 79 ñ Kamara 41)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: HOU 2 wins, 4 GF ... KC 0 wins, 0 GF ... 0 ties