The Houston Dynamo were able to secure a playoff spot for the time in three seasons and face a familiar foe in rivals Sporting Kansas City. SKC have struggled in the playoffs since they knocked the Dynamo out in 2013 and eventually won the MLS Cup and are keen to prevent a fourth consecutive away knock out round loss.
In our preview of the match we discussed how each side made it to the playoffs along with the previous meetings, but we wanted the perspective of a rival so we spoke with Cody Bradley of the Blue Testament to talk about some of the issues facing SKC.
Dynamo Theory: The last time the Houston Dynamo were in a playoff game was the year that Sporting Kansas City won the MLS Cup. Since then, SKC has lost three consecutive road knock out round playoff games. How concerned are SKC fans with the match being in Houston and how important is it to make it to the next round after three seasons of failing to do so?
The Blue Testament: The goal the last two seasons has been securing that home playoff game (finishing above 5th). Vermes and the players were vocal about it. So yes, to answer your question, fans are VERY concerned the match is in Houston. They had all the chances in the world to accomplish that goal and they failed. They did it in the same fashion they've done for years now and it’s obviously all really frustrating.
But if they win this game, I suppose all of this anguish we have at the moment becomes irrelevant. Fans want the reward of playoff game, but this club promises far more than that. After winning the Open Cup they declared they weren't done with the silverware this year. The last few years have just been excruciating exits from the playoffs and KC is desperate for a deep run. CMP is a fortress and if they can just bring a game home to play in front of the Cauldron, then anything can happen.
DT: The Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City both played each other twice relatively recently. What were some of your takeaways from those games and how will they translate into this important game?
TBT: My takeaway is that Sporting KC is terrible at finishing. In both matches they had the better of possession, far more shots, corners and any other positive statistic you can come up with. This is of course except the only one that counts. The problem has plagued SKC for a couple years now. They control the game and create plenty of chances to win games but drop points because they can't find that last touch. In this last bad stretch Latif Blessing has kicked two or three balls OUT of an open net, somehow. I'm talking chances that would have been easier to score than to miss. But it is definitely not only his fault. This team needs someone to be lethal step up now that it is do-or-die.
DT: Sporting Kansas City has a 2-8-7 record on the road this season. What or who will be the X-factor to help them out Thursday?
TBT: I wish I had an answer for you. But that is the big question and the big need right now. Someone has to step up. Benny Feilhaber looks to be nursing some sort of injury and Tim Melia is not fit to return yet. I'm looking for Daniel Salloi to become the hero. He has still been getting his legs underneath him and I'm waiting for him to realize how good he is. He is very goal-hungry (and Hungarian) and I think if he's given the opportunity he can be the guy to come through.
Projected Lineup: Dykstra, Sinovic, Opara, Besler, Zusi, Ilie, Espinoza, Feilhaber, Salloi, Rubio, Gerso
Predicted Outcome: Going with wishful thinking and I'll say SKC grab it in extra-time!
For my answers to Cody’s excellent questions check them out at the Blue Testament!