Fresh after suffering its worst loss of the season, Sporting Kansas City looks to get back on track at home against a familiar foe.
The Houston Dynamo, despite the hex it held over KC over the last few seasons, isn’t the same team anymore. The Dynamo is currently six points below the playoff line and hovering above Montreal and Chivas over the entrance to the cellar door.
Let’s toss out some cones and get our preview on.
Kickoff is on Friday at 7 p.m. at Sporting Park. The broadcast will be on NBC Sports Network (and on local radio on 810 WHB and 1340 AM).
Sporting KC is 12-7-6 (42 points) overall this season and 5-2-6 at home. Over the last six matches, KC is 3-2-1 (10 points).
Houston is currently down at ninth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-13-4 overall and a shocking 1-10-1 record on the road this year. Over the last six matches, the Dynamo is 2-3-1 — but has lost all six of its last away matches.
Tactical question: Can KC get Dom Dwyer back on track?
Dwyer is currently second in the league with 16 goals scored, but he hasn’t scored in the run of play since July 12th. (He scored on two two penalties against Toronto.)
His lack of production isn’t the worry — before the loss to D.C. United, Kansas City had scored 17 goals in 10 matches, with Dwyer pitching in six.
What’s worrying is his overall lack of involvement in the attack. Dwyer is an active shooter, and ranks third in both total shots (81) and shots on target (35). But over the last five, he’s failed to reach his season average of 3 shots per game four times. In one of those games, a 4-1 over Toronto, both his shots were from the PK spot. (He buried both, of course.)
The Englishman is at his most dangerous when he’s allowed to roam the channels and maneuver into the box (usually without the ball). However, because he’s the sole central striker — and because KC has been forced to rotate the wing forwards and central midfielders so much — he’s often by himself trying to fight for space against two defenders. It’s hard to move into channels with two people watching you and even harder to get a solid look at goal.
It’s like doing a magic trick with two people watching every single move you make.
If he can get a teammate to make a distraction —Soony Saad or Graham Zusi drifting from out wide or, like the video below, Benny Feilhaber making a direct run with the ball — he can get back on track. It just takes a second and some sleight of hand.
Big Number: -22
That is Houston’s road goal differential, the worst mark in the entire league. That’s also equal to Chivas and Montreal’s combined differential on the road.
It gets even worse: In the last seven MLS matches, Houston has shipped 20 goals. In six of those games, the Dynamo failed to score.
Potentially good news for a Sporting KC squad dazed from last weekend’s match with D.C. United.
What to read
Sam McDowell weighs in on KC’s defensive issues ahead of the match and how Peter Vermes is looking to fix it.
What he said
“There are times I believe a talk or a meeting can solve certain issues. There are other times I believe talk is cheap. Right now, we know what we have to do. We just have to go do it.” - Peter Vermes.
Kansas City’s injury issues still persist as Jacob Peterson (with either a left knee strain per game notes or a hamstring injury per MLSsoccer.com) has been ruled out alongside Eric Kronberg (fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand). Paulo Nagamura (back in regular training) and Sal Zizzo (who left the D.C. game early) are both listed as questionable.
Andy Gruenebaum is also questionable. Which means Jon Kempin could be in line for his third-straight MLS start.
After Vermes’ strong words about his defense, the potential exists for a few changes along the back line — Kevin Ellis has already returned from a one-game loan stint with Oklahoma Energy FC.
As crazy as this might sound: This is a must win for KC. Houston isn’t a playoff team and, with only nine matches left in a super-tight race at the top, Kansas City can’t afford to drop points (at home) to non-playoff teams.