After 5-2 win at Sporting Kansas City, Houston Dynamo still have plenty to prove in rematch

Houston Dynamo - celebrate - Ariel Lassiter goal

It's one thing for the Houston Dynamo to be coming off a pair of gaudy, emphatic three-goal victories over Sporting Kansas City (5-2) and Minnesota United (3-0).

It's another, says Houston right back Zarek Valentin, to prove they can produce points game after game and week after week, beginning with a third this season against SKC on Saturday night at BBVA Stadium.

"I think we can take a lot of positives from the last two wins — back-to-back wins is always great," Valentin said during a media conference call. "But we’re not in the playoffs. We’re still below the line. That’s not where we want to be. We want to be a team that’s in the playoffs, pushing to be in the top of the Western Conference, and then obviously take it from there."

Indeed the Dynamo remain one place below the playoff line after eight matches played in this revised and condensed 2020 MLS season, while Sporting are perched atop the Western Conference. But they've looked far better than their record in the games since the regular season resumed in home markets in August. They even looked considerably improved during their brief run in the MLS is Back Tournament in July.

In some ways, first-year coach Tab Ramos believes the pause in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped implement some of his desired changes.

Highlights: Houston score 5 in KC

"COVID and having us at home and having to do Zoom calls, and having a lot of discussions with players has helped me to know them as people," Ramos said. "I think when you get to know the players as people, that helps a lot. And for me having had this time has certainly helped."

Of course, most teams are now busy making up for that lost time with the rigors of twice-weekly matches in what is eventually expected to be a 23-match regular season.

For SKC coach Peter Vermes, that has meant some creative roster management, including sliding Graham Zusi into a substitute midfield role in KC's last match, a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas. Zusi has played mainly outside back for most of his later career.

"He’s got a really good soccer IQ and he’s a very conscientious player, and I told him before, 'Look I’m going to not start you for these reasons, and one of them could be that you may have to go in the midfield'," Vermes said during his most recent conference call. "I actually think we got that right for that game."

Roger Espinoza and Ilie still aren't available in that midfield for KC. Gerso should be fresh and available as an attacker, however, after earning Team of the Week honors with an impressive 57-minute shift as he continues to emerge as one of the club's more relentless creators.

"If there’s no one else, maybe I’ll try to score, but I have the mindset of always trying to find a teammate who I can pass the ball to for him to score," he said after assisting Khiry Shelton's equalizer against Dallas. "It’s something that I’ve been trying to work with and been trying to change. But I think it’s just the way I am as a player, and maybe I should not try and change that."