Sure, Sporting Kansas City would have loved to sew up a playoff spot with two matches to go in their regular season.
But a road point in a tough venue and a four-match unbeaten string against their Eastern Conference postseason nemesis? They'll take both, move on, and get ready for their last home game against D.C. United on Oct. 18.
“It's a tight race, you know? We knew it was going to be like this going into the end of the season,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Wednesday night's scoreless draw against Houston. “For us, it's important that we continue to keep getting better and to get points wherever we can. I think this was a great road point for us.”
It was also Sporting's second straight hard-fought shutout in five days, on the heels of Saturday's 1-0 away victory over Columbus.
“If you would have said that we'd get four points out of our two next road games, I think most people would have said, 'That's great. That's excellent,'” Vermes said. “So it's a good place to be at the moment.”
And as he did after the win against the Crew, Vermes praised his players' toughness: “The effort by the boys was excellent.”
Sporting now sit a point back of New York in the conference standings and can lock up a place in the postseason this weekend, if Chicago draw or lose against FC Dallas or Philadelphia lose to East cellar-dwellers D.C. United. They also haven't lost to the Dynamo since a 2-0 away defeat in the away leg of last year's East semifinals, going 2-0-2 and outscoring Houston 3-1 over that span.
Early on, though, the Dynamo seemed intent on ending its winless run against the visitors and further tightening up the standings.
The third-place Dynamo forced Sporting keeper Jimmy Nielsen into three saves in the first seven minutes, although he had to make only one more on the way to his 12th clean sheet of the year. That ties him with the Union's Zac MacMath for the league lead.
“Jimmy always finds a way to keep us in the game,” Vermes said. “He's done that since he's been here, and I've never seen anything different from him. He came up really big for us early on.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.