Preview: Sporting KC host Houston in Eastern finals

SKC_HOU_DL

Photo Credit: 
MLSsoccer.com

SPORTING KC v HOUSTON DYNAMO
LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

Sunday, November 6, 2011
5:30 p.m. ET; FOX Soccer; FOX Deportes

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE (PDF)

REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): C.J. Morgante; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Chris Penso

INJURY REPORT:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Peterson Joseph (R knee surgery); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); PROBABLE: FW Omar Bravo (R abductor strain); MF Milos Stojcev (R ankle sprain)
HOUSTON DYNAMO -- OUT: FW Cam Weaver (R hip)

SUSPENDED:
none

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD:
KC 3 wins, 15 GF … HOU 5 wins, 18 GF … Ties 4
2011 HEAD-TO-HEAD:
KC 1 win, 4 GF … HOU 0 wins, 1 GF … 1 tie
AT LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK:
9/10: KC 3, HOU 0 (Bunbury 9, 73; Sapong 79)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS:
KC 0 wins, 0 GF … HOU 1 win, 2 GF … 0 ties

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

  • Sporting Kansas City come into the fourth conference championship in club history as one of the hottest teams in MLS. "I told the guys before the game started that we haven’t achieved anything yet," said manager Peter Vermes. "You think that it’s going to be easy but the other team brings everything they’ve got. Tactically it’s amazing as games go on we get better and better. I think it’s because they are playing with a level of confidence."
  • Since a five-game losing streak amidst their 10-game road trip to start the season, they have lost just four times in 30 games in all competitions. “It’s been that hot team in the playoffs that usually makes a good run of it,” Graham Zusi said. “That’s what we are right now. We’re a hot team, and we’re tough to beat right now.”
  • With back-to-back shutouts in the conference semifinals, SKC have now kept four consecutive clean sheets and not allowed a goal in 365 minutes. "We got to know each other more so we are more confident and trusting of one another. We play as a unit in the defense. We go up together and we go back together, we go to the right, and to the left," said center back Aurelien Collin. "We are a unit, before somebody was doing this, the other was doing that, but right now we are a unit, we feel it on the field."
  • Over the course of the regular season, Sporting created three goals from free kicks. Both goals in the second leg vs. Colorado came from free kicks. "Every team dreams of having a player who can serve set pieces like Zusi can. He’s in the same class as David Beckham and Brad Davis. Those type of players can serve the ball however you want it and that’s good to have on your team. That’s huge," said goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
  • Omar Bravo also missed the second leg after again experiencing tightness in his groin. "Even though he can run, the problem is when he strikes the ball he can feel it a little bit. ... Whenever there is a muscle situation, I like to be conservative. Take a few days here instead of the four or six weeks later," said Vermes. "I think he’ll be ready for Sunday. I can’t guarantee it, but he has a couple more days now to keep getting treatment and get back."

HOUSTON DYNAMO

  • The last time the Dynamo faced Sporting Kansas City, it was a 3-0 defeat. That was Houston's last loss -- they have won six of eight games since, with two draws. “I think we’re going to play our game,” Houston defender Geoff Cameron said. “I don’t think we’re going to adapt to their style. We’re going to adjust going in there and play our game. We lost a lot of that when we went there, but we have a lot of confidence going, we feel good in the back, the midfield is excellent and Brian Ching is Brian Ching.”
  • In the Dynamo's first game in Houston, Ching inaugurated the club in style with a fourgoal game in a 5-2 win vs. Colorado. Six full seasons later, Ching brought down the curtain on the club's Robertson Stadium era with his first goal since Aug. 20. “I was thinking about that all day, what a way it would be to close it out,” Ching said. “The stars just aligned for me and our team. The goal meant a lot to make it easier to close out the series.”
  • Brad Davis set up a goal in each playoff game, both on free kick services. “I think we’ve been successful all year on them and in the past we’ve been the same way,” said Bobby Boswell. “It’s our bread and butter. It’s hard to mark everyone. It’s been working for us. Why
  • change it if it’s working?”
  • The Dynamo's lone goal vs. SKC this year came when Davis scored on his own from a free kick. “[The media] have talked about it and other teams keep saying it, but I keep saying we’re going to get our chances every game and we look to capitalize on them,” said Davis, who has nine of his 18 assists in league and MLS Cup play on set pieces.
  • The Dynamo went winless in their first 15 trips away from Houston. But after wins against Dallas and Portland to close out the road portion of the regular season, the Orange then won at Philadelphia to open the playoffs. “They are an extremely dangerous team and a team with a lot of confidence that has a great record at home,” said Ching. “They put their first-round opponent away decisively. They’re a team with a lot of confidence just like us. We have to stay organized. They play with five in midfield and we definitely have to be prepared for that.”