By FRANCO PANIZO
If 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer, the Houston Dynamo should be on high alert.
The Dynamo lead Eastern Conference favorites Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, on aggregate in their Eastern Conference semifinals series after winning at home over the weekend, and they will try and maintain that advantage inside of Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday night.
The atmosphere inside of Sporting KC’s stadium should be electric, as the raucous club supporters will be pushing their team to erase the two-goal deficit that was sustained in Houston. Sporting KC have enough talent in their attack to pull level and even take the lead, but they will need to be smart with how they approach the game if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes will need to take a measured approach. Numbers should be thrown forward, but not recklessly, because one goal from Houston in this second leg would be damning for Sporting KC’s chances of advancing.
For Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo, their tactics will play a big factor in how they fare in Kansas City. Houston can try and play it safe by absorbing the waves of attack from Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong, but that could prove too conservative against a team with that kind of offensive firepower.
It is more likely that the Dynamo play a possession-based game, trying to hold onto the ball and picking and choosing when to feed the ball to in-form striker Will Bruin. Still, how successful they are will come down to how good a job Bobby Boswell, Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat do in shutting down a Sporting KC team that will be feeding off its crowd.
Here is a closer look at the match:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO
WHEN: at Livestrong Sporting Park: Thursday, 9 p.m. ET (MLS Live).
FIRST LEG: The Dynamo continued their dominance at home, topping Sporting KC, 2-0. Adam Moffat scored a beautiful goal in the first half and Will Bruin added his third of the postseason in the closing 45 minutes, leaving Sporting KC with an uphill battle if they wish to advance.
SEASON SERIES: The Dynamo edged Sporting KC in the regular season series, winning once and tying twice in their three matches. Houson’s win, a 2-1 victory on July 18, came sandwiched in between a scoreless draw on July 7 and a 1-1 tie on Sept. 14.
KEY PLAYERS – SPORTING KC: GK Jimmy Nielsen, D Aurelien Collin, M Graham Zusi, F C.J. Sapong, F Kei Kamara HOUSTON DYNAMO: GK Tally Hall, D Bobby Boswell, M Adam Moffat, M Brad Davis, F Will Bruin
WHAT WE LEARNED IN THE FIRST LEG: The Houston Dynamo are a serious contender. As was the case last year, Dominic Kinnear’s men have again turned it up a notch for the playoffs and they have the Eastern Conference favorites by their throats. Will Bruin is also playing well, proving a handful for Aurelien Collin and the rest of Sporting KC’s defense.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Graham Zusi vs. Adam Moffat/Ricardo Clark. Sporting KC is in need of goals and you can expect them to try and push the tempo from the opening whistle. Zusi is their facilitator and he is capable of breaking open Houston’s tight defense, but that is where Moffat and Clark have to come in and try to negate the Sporting KC midfielder.
OUTLOOK: Sporting KC will push, but that could leave them exposed in the back. With weapons like Brad Davis and Will Bruin, the Dynamo can punish Sporting KC if they are careless. Should Houston score first, the series could be over, so the hosts will need to take a smart and measured approach while trying to erase the two-goal deficit.
PREDICTION: Sporting KC will be playing in front of their raucous home crowd and that will help. The hosts will make a series out of it and win the game, 2-0, to force extra time, but Houston will win on penalty kicks after 30 scoreless added minutes.
What do you think of this series? Do you see the Dynamo holding onto their lead and advancing? Think Sporting KC will just be too tough at home to keep in check?
Share your thoughts below.