The Houston Dynamo are coming off a poor 2-0 road loss to the Philadelphia Union in a game that likely ended the Dynamo's playoff hopes - though that game may have come some time ago. The Dynamo will have regained Raul Rodriguez from his yellow card suspension which should provide some flexibility in defense, though they'll be losing Luis Garrido to yellow card suspension after he picked up a stoppage time yellow card in Philadelphia.
Playoffs or not, these matches against Sporting Kansas City always prove to be entertaining as the physicality comes out summoning plenty of disciplinary cards, late heroics, and plenty of controversy.
In our preview of the match we discussed a few lineup shakeups that Owen Coyle could utilize if he wants to test his younger players, but we wanted to learn about what's going on with Sporting Kansas City so we spoke with Cody Bradley of The Blue Testament to gain perspective on his club which hasn't exactly been playing "playoff soccer" lately either.
Dynamo Theory: This is the 2nd week in a row where Sporting Kansas City has played double week games with the majority of the games on the road. SKC will have made trips to Portland, Orlando, and now Houston in just 2 short weeks. What kind of adjustments will Peter Vermes make to account for tired legs and travel fatigue?
The Blue Testament: Well, that is a very good question. One thing does seem to be sure though. The practices were closed on Monday and for the most part Tuesday, indicating that he is indeed shuffling players around and trying out new things. This is something PV has been forced into the last two seasons with injuries and call ups. He has always been great at showing confidence in his bench players and rookies. Every guy on the team has played very real minutes and the rookies are no longer shaken by simply being out on the field. This team has a lot of talent coming off the bench and you can be sure they are all ready for the chance.
We can probably expect to see a lot more of newcomer Jordi Quintilla over this stretch. Having another body in the attacking mid can help with Feilhaber getting some rest. Krisztian Nemeth has picked up a bit of a knock, so Peter may try and get away with giving him a break in Houston.
DT: Since a disastrous 5-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in August, SKC has struggled to pickup points putting together a 1-4-1 record. Has the road heavy stretch played into the results, or is something not clicking for the club?
TBT: I believe it has been a combination of several things. There have been holes in the defense for most of the season since Ike Opara went down. Kevin Ellis has played out of his mind and way better in the CB role next to Besler than anyone would have thought. But, he is not Ike Opara. So some lacking areas of the squad were finally getting exposed. Key injuries to Roger Espinoza and Soni Mustivar (Benny was suspended one of the games). Even some incredibly bad refereeing that PV took a fine for. They started to lose confidence and were not playing with the same swag.
However, the 3-1 win over Dallas was very encouraging. They looked like themselves again at home in front of the fans. Everyone on the field was better and it sure looked like they have pulled out of the slump. A tough rivalry match away at Houston will be another tough test.
DT: While the intenseness of Sporting Kansas City and Dynamo games always draws my interest, the Dynamo have not been playing their usual brand of "playoff soccer" that they tend to do this time of year. What does this match mean for SKC? Is it a chance to get some other players some rest from a hectic schedule? Or is it about getting into a higher playoff seeding?
TBT: I don't know if they see it as a chance, or more of a necessity. Vermes will never take a team lightly, especially with the kind of games these two teams always have. He was very blunt on Monday after practice when asked about the US Open Cup Final and what it means for his MLS lineups. "If you're asking me, the Open Cup final, is it important? It's hugely important to us, absolutely," Vermes told reporters on Monday. "But we have a game Wednesday. That's all I can deal with right now. All the other stuff doesn't matter. I have two games before that. There's nothing else to talk about." So yes, he is focusing on this game!
The Western Conference has just been crazy this year. We were the Supporters' Shield favorites for a while, then lose a few games and we are all of a sudden checking over our shoulders for the red playoff line. But then.... we beat Dallas and now once again the SS is not out of reach. With a win against the Dynamo, SKC will be at 47 points. Just 1 point off the SS lead. If they can get 3 points tonight, the dream of winning all 3 trophies this season will be alive and well. Especially with the returns of Espinoza and Opara coming at some point
Projected Lineuped: (4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Besler, Ellis, Myers, Mustivar, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Peterson, Dwyer, Zusi
Predicted Lineup: Sporting KC 2 - 2 Houston Dynamo
For my answers to Cody’s questions hit up The Blue Testament to check them out!