Three Thoughts on #HOUvSKC: Are Dynamo now Eastern Conference favorites?
1) Expect more of the same from Dominic Kinnear and the Dynamo in the second leg
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And Houston’s tactical approach to Sporting Kansas City over the past year has proven to be nearly perfect.
From an attacking perspective, Sporting want to feast on second balls and turnovers in strategic positions to spark the counterattack and rack up set pieces. Houston are one of the few teams in MLS that can match up physically, negating Sporting’s usual advantage in dead-ball situations. They’re also more than willing to fight fire with fire, turning the game into a rough-and-tumble midfield battle and stacking 10 men behind the ball.
Without space to work with on Sunday and an opponent focused on disrupting their midfield rhythm, Kansas City were punchless going forward on Sunday, notching just one shot on goal. Want proof? Check out the completed passes for Kei Kamara (left) and C.J. Sapong’s (right) in the Dynamo’s half below.
It's hard to imagine Kinnear will shake things up too much on Wednesday. The burden is on Kansas City to prove they can adapt and turn this series around.
2) Depth is an issue for Sporting Kansas City
It's been awhile since anyone talked about Teal Bunbury, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in late August, but Sporting KC are clearly missing an attacking spark off the bench.
Down a goal on Sunday, Peter Vermes sent on Peterson Joseph, Dom Dwyer and, eventually, Bobby Convey. Joseph and Dwyer are both exciting young attacking talents, but they aren't exactly experienced professionals. Joseph played 263 minutes in 2012 with one assist while Dwyer logged just four minutes in one regular season appearance. Convey has the pedigree, but played just two minutes since early August while struggling with injury.
Meanwhile, Kinnear had the luxury of sending on a couple veteran bruisers in Brian Ching and Cam Weaver, who had an instant impact on the game and helped Houston pin Kansas City back for the final 10 minutes or so.
Bunbury won't be back this season, but Vermes will hope Paulo Nagamura's ankle heals by Wednesday. Otherwise, Kansas City won't have much in the way of seasoned reinforcements.
3) Have the Dynamo taken over the "favorite" label in the Eastern Conference?
Kinnear would surely prefer to fly under the radar, but that's not going to happen after back-to-back victories against Chicago and Kansas City.
With D.C. and New York scuffling through a first leg defined by own goals and a silly red card on the other side of the bracket, the Dynamo are all of a sudden looking like the fashionable choice to represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup.
The playoffs have always been about hitting your stride at the right time, and with Will Bruin and Calen Carr clicking and Tally Hall under very little pressure thus far, Houston appear to have another deep postseason run in them. They've still got plenty of work to do on Wednesday in Kansas City, of course, but you'd be foolish to bet against this pragmatic bunch in November.