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Sporting Kansas City, Houston play to 0-0 draw as Eastern Conference finals series opens in Texas

Nov 9, 2013, 4:57 PM EDT

Goal-scoring chances were at a premium from two exhausted teams as Sporting Kansas City and Houston played to a scoreless draw Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium. This makes it “advantage KC” as the home-and-away Eastern Conference finals series now goes to the Midwest.

The second leg is Nov. 23; the prolonged period of inactivity is about an upcoming, week-long break for FIFA international matches.

When the teams do return to the field, presumably far better rested, Kansas City will see a partially clear path to the organization’s second MLS Cup title. Kansas City will be favored in the return leg, and if Peter Vermes’ team can advance into this year’s championship match, it will host the final at always-raucous Sporting Park.

Houston has, however, won in Kansas City when a trip to MLS Cup was on the line. It happened that way two years ago as the Dynamo prevailed 2-0 in the Eastern Conference final at Sporting Park.

(MORE: Sporting KC Man of the Match, Aurelien Collin)

Saturday the teams combined for 25 shots, but neither goalkeeper was tested significantly (just six shots on target, three apiece). Both sides went through 120 minutes of tense soccer on Wednesday, both requiring extra time to squeeze through their semifinal matchups. Plus, both clubs traveled cross-country the next day.

Houston was also playing its 7th match in 21 days, an absolutely debilitating gauntlet of games.

Being so physically drained (from Major League Soccer’s ill-considered, stacked and packed playoff schedule) made for a sluggish match throughout, with more injuries and stoppages than actual scoring opportunities.

In the first half, Jacob Peterson found himself unmarked as one ball came scooting across Houston goal, but the SKC left-sided attacker scruffed his shot well wide. At the other end, Will Bruin was close with something that would have been quite special, just high with a shot on the run from every bit of 35 yards.

And Boniek Garcia put Kofi Sarkokie though along the right in the 17th minute. Houston’s right back was called offside even though it appeared Matt Besler kept the Dynamo man onside.

Garcia’s free kick later in the half from 20 yards required quick attention from KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen; that was the closest either team came to scoring.

Houston’s hopes in the series suffered a mighty blow when Ricardo Clark, playing so well throughout the playoffs, limped off with a strained MCL after 25 minutes. He hurt himself during a midfield tackle. As a result, Kinnear was forced to shuffle his entire midfield arrangement, adding an extra man in the middle to compensate for all the ground that Clark usually covers.

Cam Weaver’s introduction at halftime for the gassed Will Bruin brought just a little more life to Houston’s attack. Both teams, in fact, made attack-minded substitutions through the second half, but chances remained at a premium.

  1. talgrath - Nov 9, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    That was a nasty, ugly game. I basically just watched 97 minutes of two teams fouling each other, in no small part thanks to referee Kevin “Play on” Stott. Any other ref and that game would have seen cards galore, but not with Stott in charge. I hope the next leg is better with a better ref or this series will be very, very ugly.

    • tariencole - Nov 9, 2013 at 9:56 PM

      Nasty? I didn’t see any intent-to-injure challenges like Olave’s in the NYRB collapse. Both teams like to control midfield. Stott could have done more to keep things open, I agree. But I’d say the factors inhibiting the match had a lot more to do with:

      1) Houston havving played 7 matches in 21 days. And BOTH teams playing 120 mins 3 days before.

      2) The condition of the pitch. It simply came apart in the 2nd half. And that is the result of their “soccer-specific stadium” being used for College Football!

  2. mkbryant3 - Nov 9, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    I agree. Zzzzzzzzzzz

  3. houstonrahoyt - Nov 10, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    With Dynamo so exhausted, pulling a LEGIT deserved goal out was infuriating. MLS needs to pioneer goal line and offsides technologies mostly because it’s refs quality is so consistently low. I walked out from the Dynamo game feeling like the Dynamo got robbed – still ticked about it.

  4. geojock - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    SKC is the San Antonio spurs of the MLS minus the championships. Awful to watch. The high pressure and fouling is one thing, the crying and time wasting was really bad. And the 5 min set up for a throw in? SKC has the most opposing coaches ejections in the league, i wonder why.

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