HOUSTON – In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City played to rough and tumble 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
In game where both teams were dragging, Sporting playing their fifth game in 17 days and the Dynamo’s sixth, the game ebbed and flowed. However, the fatigue did not restrict the physicality. The clubs played the physical brand of soccer that many have come to expect.
The game could be defined by a goal that was waved off in the 18th minute. Kofi Sarkodie snuck behind the SKC backline and hit the back of the net. But the offside flag was up and pulled the goal off the board.
On replay, Sarkodie looked to be close with the last Sporting defender but the flag took an early lead from the home team. Ten minutes later, Boniek Garcia came close to unlocking the score but his curling free kick was repelled by a diving save from Jimmy Nielsen.
That was the only time a ball found the back of the net. Now the teams will take a much needed two-week break before reuniting for the second leg at Sporting Park Nov. 23.
There was not much unexpected from the start of the game between two tired, physical teams. The play was choppy and both teams showed energy despite their fatigue of a congested playoff schedule, but for the work there were few exciting moments.
In the 39th minute, Teal Bunbury hit a close-range shot off a Matt Besler long-throw that forced a kick save off the line by Sarkdoie. On the counter, Will Bruin worked his way past both Chance Myers and Auerlien Collin before ripping a 35-yard chance. He got under it however and it sailed inches over goal.
The biggest impact of the first half was suffered by Houston. After a full-speed collision with Benny Feilhaber, Ricardo Clark exited the match in the 26th minute for Andrew Driver. Already without Jermaine Taylor, out for the playoffs with a foot fracture, and Corey Ashe due to suspension, the move further weakened Houston’s forces.
Bunbury nearly got his goal in the 57th minute, working his way through the Dynamo defense but his shot was stuffed by Tally Hall.
On the other end of the field, the Dynamo moved to a 4-3-3 after Bruin exited at halftime for Cam Weaver and the substitute rose high for a sharp header off a Mike Chabala cross. Just like Hall, Nielsen was in perfect position to stop the chance.
The rise in chances came with an uptick in intensity as both teams pushed forward. Collin took his chance at unlocking the score line, but his header off a Besler throw went over the crossbar.
The game ended with the same vigor with both teams fighting but coming away with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard to set up a winner-take-all return leg in Kansas in two weeks.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jimmy Nielsen||The veteran 'keeper sent Sporting to Kansas City even thanks to a bevy of key saves.|
|2||Tally Hall||Equally up to the task as Nielsen, stepping up to make stops when KC pressed forward.|
|3||Brad Davis||Houston's midfielder was a presence for in the offensive third in a match that lacked offensive punch.|