HOUSTON — Sporting Kansas City knew it was going to be a grind against the Houston Dynamo, but now they leave Houston in a position they want to be in – needing just a win to advance.
After a physical match -- a 0-0 draw in the Eastern Conference Championship first leg -- that did not see many chances by either side Saturday, the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals will have to wait two weeks, resuming Nov. 23 in Kansas City.
“It was a grind out there,” defender Matt Besler said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew both teams were fatigued coming into this game. Because of that, it wasn’t the prettiest of soccer games, but at this time of year, that doesn’t matter to us.”
However, going into the second leg, Kansas City feel confident about their chances.
“We look at it as it’s us,” Besler said regarding who has the advantage. “The reason the higher seed gets the second leg at home is for situations like this. The away team in the first leg can get a result like that, and now, we can go and play in front of our fans for the last 90 minutes and try to get the win.”
Houston had arguably the best chances Saturday, with a Kofi Sarkodie goal called back after the sideline official deemed him offside in the 17th minute; a Boniek Garcia free kick try from 35 yards out denied by a diving Jimmy Nielsen in the 30th minute; and Will Bruin sent a blast from 35 yards out in the middle just high in the 40th minute. However, Kansas City said they played how they wanted to.
“Our objective wasn’t necessarily to score a goal, not losing of course, and that’s what we did,” defender Aurelien Collin said. “We could have scored a couple. I could have scored one. We didn’t, but we didn’t lose. They have to come to our place. Everybody in the league knows it’s difficult to play in our place.”
Now both teams have two weeks to rest following Saturday’s game. The Dynamo have played six games in the last 17 days, and Sporting Kansas City has played five games in that same timeframe.
“It was a great result for us,” Nielsen said. “Both teams came with a very good attitude. I had a rough game midweek. Bringing in that intensity, the game that developed today was very awesome.”
Head coach Peter Vermes said it was good to get out of Houston without allowing a goal after the game that both teams called ugly.
“We know what the return match will be,” Vermes said. “It will be a final because it is the last team for both teams. What I really credit my guys for is keeping their composure, battling every single roll of the ball and getting a clean sheet here. It is not an easy thing to do here at this stadium or against this team.”