The Houston Dynamo return to play in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a Round of 16 meeting against Sporting Kansas City. The Dynamo are coming off a big 3-0-win Sunday night in Carson against the Galaxy and will look to keep that road form going tonight in Kansas. SKC also played in California Sunday night, drawing 1-1 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
In a single elimination tournament like the Open Cup, you just have to win. The Dynamo have done just that in their first two matches. The wins over Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio FC weren’t pretty, but they were wins. Head coach Paulo Nagamura talked about the mentality coming in to a single-elimination game. “There’s no second chances,” he said to the media on Thursday. “It’s not home and away, it’s just one game, and we have to get the job done in one game. If it’s 90 minutes, if it’s in 120 minutes, if it’s on PKs, however it is. It’s single game elimination and we got to make sure that we bring the mentality to the game, knowing that there is no tomorrow. We got to get things done tomorrow.”
The rivalry is real
When people talk about the Dynamo’s rivals it is usually FC Dallas and Austin FC that are mentioned first. If you’ve been a Dynamo fan for a while, you will almost certainly mention Sporting KC near the top of that list, if not at the top. One of the longest tenured Dynamo players, Memo Rodriguez, spoke yesterday about what the rivalry with SKC means. “Going back to the old times, both teams would meet in the playoffs, conference semi-finals. I witnessed those games in person,” Memo said. “The intense rivalry is one that they’ve always had. They always want to beat the Dynamo and we always want to beat KC. They were so successful in the past and that rivalry just continued. Every time we speak, we’re like, ‘hey, this is another rivalry game, we don’t like KC, they don’t like us.’ It’s always an intense match. Things get chippy sometimes during these games with them, we know they’re high intensity team. We just got to match that intensity tomorrow.”
If it seems like the Dynamo are playing a match every other day, well, they pretty much are. Tonight’s match will be the middle of three matches in a six day stretch that started Sunday and will conclude Saturday against Real Salt Lake. The team also played last Wednesday night and the weekend before that. The players are feeling the fatigue. The international break is on the horizon, but they can’t let up now.
Advancing to the Open Cup quarterfinals would be a big accomplishment. Nagamura realizes the importance of each match but also how important it is having his players at their highest level. “It’s three games in six days. We’re going to have to be smart and intelligent in the way we’re using our players,” Nagamura said Thursday. “So, we are assessing them. We’re making sure that they’re recovering from the last game and making sure that whoever steps on the field tomorrow will bring their highest level of intensity and a strong mentality, which is required to win games on the road. So, it’s most likely going to be a game time decision in terms of who those guys are going to be.”
Houston Dynamo – None listed
Sporting Kansas City - Out: Ozzie Cisneros (hamstring), Gadi Kinda (knee surgery), Alan Pulido (knee surgery); Questionable: Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (facial injury/concussion), Graham Zusi (thigh), Johnny Russell (knee), Khiry Shelton (hamstring), Nikola Vujnovic (calf)