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Drilling down on: at Houston Dynamo 2, Sporting Kansas City 0

Nov 4, 2012, 6:40 PM EDT

Sporting Kansas City v Houston Dynamo - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

Sunday’s result was all Houston Dynamo fans could have hoped for  - a two-goal lead heading to Kansas City. Thanks to goals on each side of halftime from Adam Moffat and Will Bruin, the Dynamo are in the driver’s seat after one leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal, taking a 2-0 lead over Sporting Kansas City into Wednesday’s match at LiveStrong Park.

The performance was controlling and comprehensive, with a Kansas City team that was held to one shot on goal showing none of the qualities that won them the Eastern Conference. Now, on the brink of a second consecutive elimination at the hands of Dom Kinnear, Sporting head coach Peter Vermes has to go back to the drawing board. Houston seems to have Kansas City figured out.

Man of the Match: Adam Moffat had no right to score off that kind of shot, one that gave Houston the dreaded first goal. Chasing a goal against a Kinnear-led team puts Kansas City in an especially unenviable position.

Moffat’s blast was a thing of beauty (and he’s done it before). After getting the ball back from Will Bruin, the Houston midfielder took one touch before letting loose on a wicked half-volley from 30 yards out. With almost no spin, the ball seemed pulled on a string into the left side of Jimmy Nielsen’s goal, the Goalkeeper of the Year favorite left to leap in vain at the game’s first goal.

After his goal scoring heroics, Moffat did his part to lock down the middle. With Kansas City unable to move the ball through Houston’s front six, Sporting’s attacking trio of Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong were non-factors.

MORE: Highlights from Sunday’s big Dynamo victory.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Houston’s pressure turned the tables on Sporting.

Normally it’s Kansas City that makes things uncomfortable for the opposition, with Roger Espinoza leading a pressing game that’s helped Sporting to the league’s best defensive record. Today, however, it was Houston making life miserable for KC, their pressure repeatedly pushing the ball back to KC defenders Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler. With fullbacks Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic too far up the pitch (and accounted for by Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis), KC’s central pair were left with few options. Defensive midfielder Julio Cesar did not doing enough to provide an outlet. With Collin and Besler left with a collection of bad options, KC could never get their attack going.

Compare Houston’s approach with what we saw last night from DC United. True, we’re talking different opponents and different personnel, but DC was too passive defensively. Even before Andy Najar got himself dismissed, New York was able to amble into attack, short passes with little urgency easily making their way through the middle third.

Tonight, Houston took the opposite approach, taking advantage of their home field to build a two-goal lead.

Houston’s two-man midfield worked

For much of the year, Houston played three in the middle, but shortly before the playoffs started, Dominic Kinnear switched back to his preferred 4-4-2 – two men in the middle. In theory, that would create a disadvantage against Sporting, who play with Espinoza, Cesar and Jacob Petersen in the center. But with Houston’s forwards pressing and Ricardo Clark’s range in front of Adam Moffat, the Dynamo were able to make two-on-three work for them. The extra man along Sporting’s line enabled Houston’s game-defining pressure.

The second goal could change everything

A 1-0 win would have been nice result against the conference champions, but with Will Bruin’s 75th minute goal, Houston takes an imposing lead out of BBVA. With a one-goal lead after one leg, the tendency is to stay the course, not change your approach, and treat the scoreline as if you scored an early goal in a conventional game. Kinnear may elect to take that approach, but a two-goal lead gives him more freedom to change his team and use his practice time preparing to preserve the lead.

Packaged for takeaway

  • The teams combined for only three shots on goal, two finding their way to nylon. Kansas City’s only shot came from an impossible angle wide left of Tally Hall’s goal.
  • Roger Espinoza showed few ill effects of an ankle injury that hampered him over the season’s last month, though he did leave after 77 minutes.
  • When you look to Kansas City’s bench, you see how much they miss Teal Bunbury, the young striker whose season was cut short by a major knee injury. Peter Vermes has few ways to change his team when he needs to chase the game.
  • Houston may be without Jermaine Taylor for Wednesday’s second leg. The Jamaican international picked up a knee injury in the first half, and although he tried to go in the second, Andre Hainault had to come on after 55 minutes.
  • Calen Carr showed why he’s preferred to Mac Kandji. Kandji may be the more dangerous player, but Carr’s work rate was essential on Sunday. He got the assist on Bruin’s goal.
  • If there was one question about Houston coming into the game, it was young right back Kofie Sardokie, particularly given the potential battle with Kei Kamara. Sarkodie acquitted himself nicely, even if Kansas City’s leading scorer had few chances to exploit the matchup.

Adam Moffat talks big goals, big Sunday wins:

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  1. danielofthedale - Nov 4, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Somebody from Houston has put the Hoodoo on Sporting Kansas City. Last year the Dynamo knocked out SKC in the Eastern Finals. This season SKC did not get a win in the regular season against the men in Orange. Now Houston picked up a decisive 2-0 victory in the first leg all but assuring them safe passage to the next round over SKC. Seems like Houston just plain ole has SKCs number.

  2. dreadpirate82 - Nov 4, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    The good news for SKC is that 2-0 is “the most dangerous lead!!!!!!”, as we all know.

  3. footballer4ever - Nov 4, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    danielofthedale said:

    “Now Houston picked up a decisive 2-0 victory in the first leg all but assuring them safe passage to the next round over SKC.”
    •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
    Assuring them safe passage to the next round?? You just jinxed your team by saying that.

    Do you not realize being ahead 2-0 is the most misleading score because the other team starts to feel “assuring” as you put it. If not, ask Germany what happened to them at the end with a 4-0 lead vs Sweden in the last qualifier.
    ——————————————————–
    dreadpirate82 said:
    “The good news for SKC is that 2-0 is “the most dangerous lead!!!!!!”, as we all know.”
    •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
    Exactly! I was not amazed at Houston’s play in this game even if they won 2-0. SKC, spank them Dynamo at your LIVESTRONG football pantheon in front of your passionate fans!

    • danielofthedale - Nov 4, 2012 at 11:05 PM

      @footballer4ever

      I live in Atlanta so I have no MLS team. I did pick Sporting to win MLS Cup before the season and at the start of the playoffs so I am hoping that they can pull it out at home.

    • dreadpirate82 - Nov 5, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      I was being sarcastic. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  4. footballer4ever - Nov 4, 2012 at 11:23 PM

    @danielofthedale

    Good to know you are in Atlanta.

    Based on a local newspaper about MLS popularity:

    “Miami may not have an MLS team anymore, but apparently it still has MLS fans. The league has discovered that Miami is one of the top three television markets for MLS games among non-MLS cities, along with San Diego and Atlanta.

    • danielofthedale - Nov 4, 2012 at 11:53 PM

      Yeah Atlanta is also one of the top TV markets for the last couple of Euros and World Cups. I have my fingers that crossed that when the Falcons get a new stadium that we will get one of the two Southeastern MLS teams. It would be freaking amazing to be able to go to MLS games here. And if it ever happens, Eric Wynalda will be our GM or Manager which would thrill me too since he still is my all time favorite player.

  5. ndnut - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    2 SE teams. Throw my South Dakota votes in for Atlanta and New Orleans (NO and Montreal would be the best inter-regional rivalry ever). So to make conferences work we add 4 east teams, (NY2, Atlanta, NO, and someone else like Baltimore or Pittsburg) move Houston and SKC to the west, add Minneapolis for the west then we have 24, a good number in my book.

    • danielofthedale - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:57 AM

      Orlando will be one of the SE teams. I have no doubt about it. They are avg. over 10,000 per game in the USL and are close to getting a stadium deal done. I think they are better lock for the next team to join league even over NY2.

      And thanks for you support for Atlanta!

  6. footballer4ever - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    @danielofthedale

    Realistically speaking, aside from Euros/WC viewership, how much more popular football, aka soccer, has grown up to be locally? Do you all have a minor league team of sorts? Your insight on that will be appreciated.

    • danielofthedale - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:55 AM

      I will start with the local team and then move to fan growth. We have the Atlanta Silverbacks who came back in 2011 in the NASL.the first season we were far and way the worst team in the league and the team had a very meager marketing budget. They avg. around 3,500 attendance per game in a 5,000 seat stadium. This season we were by far the worst team the first half of the season. Then the team changed management and coach. We got a new GM, Eric Wynalda came in as interim coach and Team Pres. after that we had the third best record for the rest of the season. The team avg. over 4,000 game. I expect even better things next year as they are doing a much better job marketing the team.

      As for the growth, it has seen real good growth on what I call the superficial level. Lots of people following the EPL, more people getting into La Liga and the Bundeslige. The US National team draws big numbers at bars for the bigger games. The Metro Atlanta area has a very large and growing Hispanic population that is also big into the leagues from home.

      That said the acceptance of MLS has been slower. Awareness of the league has grown and is growing but its not as big as the EPL. For the sake of arguments lets say that Garber gave us a team tomorrow and it would start playing in 2014 with a good owner that put a real effort into marketing the team I would expect the first season the team would draw 15,000 per game. However I think that number could grow a good deal. Atlanta is growing at a quick rate in the same demographics that make up most of the MLS season ticket holders, especially in the supporters section. I think the city has real potential to be a successful MLS market.

  7. footballer4ever - Nov 5, 2012 at 1:26 AM

    @danielofthedale

    Thanks for that insightful analysis. In order for MLS to get the attention like EPL, MLS will have to come to the point when there will be a need to be aggressive to sign big players and throughout the league to take it to the next level. Currently, MLS is like on a safe 2nd level; Nevertheless, feeling comfortable will not take the league to a higher level. When will that next step happen? Who knows!?

  8. footballer4ever - Nov 5, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    @ dreadpirate82

    Behind your intended sarcasm, there’s an obvious thruth which often can be overcome. The 4-0 Germany vs Sweden example, that’s a harder feat.

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