A pair of Western Conference sides trying to end slumps and tighten up defensively square off Saturday night when the Houston Dynamo host Sporting Kansas City.
The Dynamo (7-2-3) are comfortably fourth in the West with 23 points, three back of the Seattle Sounders with two matches in hand. While Houston has conceded only 13 goals – tied for third-fewest in the MLS, it has only one clean sheet on the season and dropped to a 1-1-2 in its last four matches after a 1-0 defeat at Minnesota United last Saturday.
It was an unlucky goal that consigned the Dynamo to defeat, with a cross by Romain Metanire from outside the penalty are on the right deflecting off Boniek Garcia’s foot and looping over keeper Joe Willis just under the crossbar inside the left post. It was also an unlucky night for Darwin Quintero, whose swivel inside the penalty area in the sixth minute led to a fierce left-footed volley that thundered off the crossbar.
Despite taking 15 shots, the Dynamo put just three on target as they sorely missed playmaker Alberth Elis, who was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. Though Elis is questionable for this match, the Honduras international received good news Tuesday when he and Dynamo teammates Romell Quioto and Maynor Figueroa were selected to the country’s Gold Cup roster.
Elis, Memo Rodriguez, and Mauro Manotas have accounted for 17 of Houston’s 23 goals, with Manotas pacing the club with eight. The Dynamo are unbeaten at home this year with six wins and two draws.
“It’s been incredibly important so far,” Willis said of Houston’s stellar play at home according to the team’s official Twitter account Thursday. “We have a very busy schedule in the summer. A lot of road games back-to-back, a lot of games in quick succession. We need to take these opportunities when we can.
“We’re a very strong team at home so it’s good to pile on the points now and give us a little bit of a cushion going forward.”
Sporting Kansas City (3-5-5) could find it tough going to pick up its first road win of the season, entering this contest with two points from their first five games outside Kansas City. They completed a three-match homestand with four points but on a negative note after a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night.
Sporting conceded both goals in the second half, marking the 11th straight game without a clean sheet since a 2-0 victory over Philadelphia on March 10. Peter Vermes’ team has failed to make an impact on both sides of the pitch on the road, scoring four goals while shipping nine.
“They’ve been really good, solid defensively and a few guys really, really good on the attacking side,” Vermes told the club’s official website. “They’re a team that takes advantage of their home field, especially based on weather, and they’re in good form at the moment.”
Vermes will have the services of co-leading scorer Krisztian Nemeth for this match after the Hungary international completed his two-match ban for a red card against Vancouver on May 18. The league added a second match to the suspension, calling his tackle serious foul play. Nemeth is tied with Johnny Russell for the lead in league play with seven goals but leads Sporting with 11 in all competitions.
(Kiki Struna photo courtesy Houston Dynamo official Twitter account)