The Houston Dynamo are in last place in the league and their host, Sporting Kansas City, is in a playoff position. It would seem like a must win for the Dynamo just to say they aren’t as bad as a few other teams, but Sporting Kansas City is in a precarious position where they’d like to move up the table to avoid specific matchups come playoff time. The Dynamo were able to secure El Capitán by winning the Texas Derby in their previous match despite losing to FC Dallas to the tune of 3-1 (thank goodness for Owen Coyle early in the season and his high flying offense, right?). The Dynamo will need to adjust quickly if they hope to sweep SKC this season.
In our preview of the match we discussed how injuries could impact this game and what’s at stake for each side, but we wanted to know more about our opponents so we spoke with Cody Bradley of The Blue Testament to get his take on SKC.
Dynamo Theory: With Graham Zusi with the USMNT, Matt Besler spending time with his family following the birth of his daughter, and with a multitude of other players injured such as MF Justin Mapp, GK Tim Melia, DF Chance Myers, and DF Lawrence Olum, SKC will be short on players ahead of this rivalry fixture. Who can we expect to see step into these roles?
The Blue Testament: The injury bug has been very real. As well as absences for suspensions and international duty. But this week will be slightly better. SKC was off last week and had time to rest up. Zusi is back and should be ready to play, as well as Besler. Matt could have possibly been given the day off to be with family, but he and Ike Opara are basically the only two fit CBs on the roster. Roger Espinoza had an absolute BS red card get rescinded, so he will be available. Really the only spot that should have a replacement on Friday is at left back for Jimmy Medranda's suspension. We will likely see a fairly new face in Ever Alvarado get the start, or there is a chance Seth Sinovic will be deemed healthy enough to get the nod.
DT: This is an important match. Sporting Kansas City currently sits in the 5th playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have the chance to climb the ranks before the season ends, but could very well slide below the red line as well. How will Peter Vermes adapt his tactics using the players you mentioned above to get a positive result?
TBT: There are plenty of people who would laugh at the mere question of Vermes switching up his tactics. He loves to preach his philosophy and make sure there is no confusion in his system. That system has won him several trophies. His hesitancy is understandable.
Now there are, of course, several small shifts and changes in responsibility for each match-up. Things that are more difficult to see. You can be sure that Soni Mustivar and Roger Espinoza will have more work to do in being aware of a potential weak spot in the back line with Alvarado at LB. But this game is at home, against a struggling opponent, and the legs are rested. We can expect to see SKC come out flying as they try to control the game and get on the board early.
DT: Consistency has been a problem for SKC the last few months as they haven’t managed to string many positive results together. What needs to happen in order to turn things around on a regular basis?
TBT: For a majority of the season I was believing that this team was much better than their place in the standings. They show they can hang with anybody on any night, and can beat them too. But then they struggle against the worst teams in the league. It doesn't make sense. You absolutely never know which team is going to show up.
For the most part, they put themselves in a position to earn a result every game. They are always right there and the margins are so thin. For me, the issue is finishing. They control games, they fire off plenty of shots, but can't seem to get the one goal they always need. Dom is scoring at a steady rate, although he could and probably should have about 6 more goals this year. The problem is the lack of production from the winger spots. Zusi can score but has failed to come close to DP numbers this year, and the crew of guys tabbed with holding down the other wing have disappointed as well. So many of draws this season simply have been wins. If three balls that hit the frame of goal would have bounced in the net instead of out, SKC could be in 2nd right now. It is so insanely frustrating to see all of these games shake out when one small ounce of luck would have earned points.
So I'm at the point where I have no freaking clue what is going to happen. I will never think this team is going to get blown out, but I will never think this team is going to blow anyone out themselves. What needs to happen is somebody on the wing who can put the ball in the net. That can't happen this year, so a combination of Zusi, Davis, Mapp, Hallisey, Peterson and Porter absolutely HAVE to step up and start producing on the wing if KC wants to make a run at MLS Cup.
Projected Lineup: Alec Kann, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Ever Alvarado, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis
Predicted Outcome: Sporting Kansas City 3 - 1 Houston Dynamo
For my answers to Cody’s questions, check them out at the Blue Testament!