Oct 8, 2013, 6:09 PM EDT
- Teams sit second, third in the Eastern Conference.
- Houston has eliminated Kansas City from the last two postseasons.
- Zusi, Besler out for Sporting; Garcia, Taylor missing for Houston.
Two years ago, Houston moved to the Eastern Conference. Ever since, the Dynamo have been the biggest obstacle between Sporting Kansas City and an MLS Cup final. Twice Sporting’s claimed first in the East, and twice it was rendered meaningless once eliminated by the Dynamo.
So Wednesday’s match in Houston (8:30 p.m. Eastern) should provide some insight as to where the teams stand with three weeks left in the season. Though Kansas City has made changes since last season — eschewing some Espinoza/Cesar brutality for a little Feilhaber/Rosell quality — Sporting’s on roughly the same level as last year. A win in Houston could hint this squad’s ready take the extra step. A stumble and not only will tracking down New York (and, the Supporters’ Shield) become more difficult, but Kansas City will be given new reason to doubt by what’s turning into an old nemesis.
That may be reading too much into a regular season game (we’ll have to see how the match plays out), but given the familiarity the teams built in the last two postseasons, a match this late in the year’s bound to carry special meaning. For Houston, a team that’s had postseason success the last two seasons, perhaps getting into the playoffs will be enough, but for a Kansas City team that’s seen the Dynamo undermine their regular season success, a hiccup could leave a lasting effect.
Then there’s the little matter of the standings. Kansas City’s second in the East. Houston’s third. If those places hold, these teams meet for a homa-and-home in the conference semifinals. Third time’s a charm, right KC fans? Montréal, one point back of the Dynamo, have a game in hand, so tomorrow’s match may not be an outright playoff preview; regardless, we’re likely to learn a lot about how each team’s positioning themselves going into the postseason.
Houston will get a small boost from the return of Andrew Driver, the winger’s calf injury having sidelined him during the Dynamo’s recent surge. With Boniek Garcia on international duty, the Scot’s return comes at the perfect time, giving Dominic Kinnear an alternative to Jason Johnson wide.
The international break isn’t as forgiving for Sporting. Graham Zusi, the team’s best player going forward, will be with the U.S. national team, as will Matt Besler, half of the team’s league-best defensive duo. The depth at Peter Vermes’ disposal means quality options will be ready to step in, but with the difference between these sides so small to begin with, the loss of two key players could play a major part.
That in addition to the increased stakes for Houston provide a couple of reasons to see the Dynamo as favorites. Kansas City has the Supporters Shield in view, but they’re otherwise both securely in the playoffs and likely to finish in the East’s top two. Houston, on the other hand, are only four points clear of sixth. When deciding who’s more likely to win a game, always start with who wants it more.
Lose this weekend, and Houston could be back in a fight for their playoff lives. Win, and they move closer to avoiding another four-five, play-in game. They also move closer to a third-straight postseason meeting with Kansas City.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
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Apr 21, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
The first spots in the semifinals have been determined as two of Europe’s top clubs made light work of their opposition today.
Apr 21, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
Enrique has won 42 of his first 50 games in charge at Barcelona, and has his side gunning for a treble.
Apr 21, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT
Toure: “No amount of wages will make me stay at a club if I feel that I no longer belong there or if no challenge exists for me.”
Apr 21, 2015, 5:48 PM EDT
Time to take a trip down memory lane and look at some stunning UCL comebacks.
Apr 21, 2015, 5:08 PM EDT
This. Is. Awesome.
Apr 21, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Guardiola’s boys batter Porto to reach the final four of the Champions League.
Barcelona 2-0 (5-1, agg.) Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar brace eases Barca into Champions League semifinals
Apr 21, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT
Barcelona reaches the semifinals for the seventh time in eight seasons as the Catalans eliminated PSG from Champions League play.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:39 PM EDT
Bayern Munich has put in FIVE first half goals against FC Porto, while Barcelona tightened it’s grip on a semifinal berth.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:18 PM EDT
A thigh strain threatens to end his injury-plagued season.
Apr 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
Manchester United spent the most money in the Premier League, while Tottenham made the most.
FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto
Apr 21, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
Two UCL quarterfinals will take place on Tuesday. Follow them both live, right here.
Wolfsburg, already down 4-1, will be without De Bruyne and Schurrle for Europa League 2nd leg vs Napoli
Apr 21, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
As they look to mount a dream comeback on the road, the Bundesliga club will be without two of its best attackers.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has dubbed him the “new Messi” in an attempt to boost his value.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT
With the most goals of any defender in the Premier League, Chris Smalling has emerged as a solid member of Louis van Gaal’s lineup at Old Trafford.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT
Manager Neil Redfearn is dealing with countless off the field issues, while the club’s legal team now has a new task with problems piling up.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:12 AM EDT
A player whose departure many thought was a foregone conclusion appears to be reconsidering.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
NBCSports.com’s Managing Editor Randy Kim spoke with Der Kaiser, as the German legend visited NYC.
Apr 21, 2015, 7:42 AM EDT
Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Marcelo are all already out for tomorrow’s 2nd leg with Atletico Madrid, and now their striker is unavailable as well.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Mourinho says Chelsea will look to the club’s stacked youth academy for reinforcements, as well as the transfer market.
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- VIDEO: Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller grabs megaphone, leads fans’ celebrations 3
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- Barcelona 2-0 (5-1, agg.) Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar brace eases Barca into Champions League semifinals 0
- FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto 0
- Chris Smalling signs new Manchester United contract through 2019 0