Sporting Kansas City will try today to boldly go where no visiting MLS team has been able to go the win column at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Dating back to the Dynamos days playing at the University of Houstons Robertson Stadium, coach Dominic Kinnears squad is unbeaten in 33 league matches at home (24-0-9), including three playoff victories.
Sporting KC, 5-4-2, is well aware of Houstons home dominance, which includes a 2-0 win in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, but coach Peter Vermes squad cant afford to dwell on it.
Youve got to take those thoughts out of your head, Sporting KC captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. Im sure when the game starts, nobody will really be thinking about them being unbeaten at home.
Thats probably a good thing, because the Dynamo, 6-2-2, which is tied atop the Eastern Conference standings with the New York Red Bulls, is playing some fantastic soccer, including back-to-back road wins at the LA Galaxy (1-0) and D.C. United (4-0).
So, Sporting KC cant be consumed by the fact that the Dynamo is 17-0-7 all-time in MLS matches at BBVA Compass Stadium and 4-0-1 so far in 2013.
It cant enter their minds that Houston has outscored its opponents 45-16 at home since the new stadium opened exactly one year ago May 12, 2012.
Obviously, theyve made it a fortress and done exceptionally well there, Vermes said. A couple weeks ago, I was talking to Dom (Houston coach Dominic Kinnear) on the phone and told him what a great job hes done and his team has done defending their home turf.
That said, the Dynamo is going to lose at home eventually, and Sporting KC understandably would relish being the club to do it.
We certainly respect Houston, but we cant be afraid of going there because theyre unbeaten, Nielsen said. And I promise you, they will not be unbeaten there forever. Somebody will have to be the first to defeat them there, and well go down and take our chance to be the first one.
Why not? Houston, which also knocked Sporting KC from the playoffs in 2011 with a 2-0 win in the Eastern Conference final at Sporting Park, has become perhaps the clubs biggest rival.
Weve lost to them two years in a row (in the playoffs), so its a rival thats become a little special for Sporting KC, centerback Aurelien Collin said. Every time we play Houston, its going to be a big battle, a big challenge for us.
Vermes just doesnt want his club getting caught up in trying to make history or seeking revenge.
Someone has to be the first (to beat Houston at home), and Id love to be the first. But were not after that aspect, Vermes said. Right now, its about performing, its about playing well, its about getting results and continuing to get better as a team.
Despite a loss Wednesday on Djimi Traores 94th-minute goal against Seattle, Sporting KC has recovered nicely after hiccups against the LA Galaxy and Portland.
It was a loss (versus the Sounders), but we had this hunger we didnt play with a couple games before Chivas, Collin said. Chivas was a good game. Seattle was a good game. I think were going to keep the same mentality and correct the little details. Then, well be good.
Good enough to win in Houston? That remains to be seen.
Its two teams in the same division and two teams that will be in the playoffs, Nielsen said. Weve got to fight for the position at the top of our division. We play them three times, so theres nine points out there. Every game matters, but games in our division matter a tiny bit more. We just have to go down there and be brave.