Sporting Kansas City hopes to boldly go where no MLS team has gone so far by knocking off Eastern Conference rival Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Wrapping up a three-game road swing, Sporting KC, 11-5-3, makes its inaugural appearance tonight at the Dynamo’s new digs, which opened May 12.
Houston, 7-5-7, is 5-0-3 at home in league matches at its new 22,000-seat stadium, though the Dynamo did drop a 2-1 decision against Valencia CF from Spain’s La Liga on May 31 in the club’s Charities Cup.
“We want to finish the road trip on the right note,” Sporting KC defender Matt Besler said. “It’s been a long road trip for sure. At the beginning, everyone was joking around and having a good time. We still love each other, but guys are starting to get on each other’s nerves a little. We’re ready to be home, so we’re definitely looking forward to a home-cooked meal and sleeping in our own bed again.”
Sporting KC avenged a regular-season loss by taking down the Philadelphia Union last Wednesday in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
Three days later, Sporting KC abandoned its pressing style in favor of laying back against the Columbus Crew, scoring twice off counterattacks and posting the season’s eighth shutout in league play and 11th overall.
But taking down the Dynamo in Houston undoubtedly will prove to be the toughest challenge on the trip.
“They definitely drive the game when they’re here, and they’re feeling pretty good about themselves,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “It’s going to be a tough test on the road for us for sure. I watched them play D.C. on Sunday and the fans were loud. Everybody’s wearing orange, so it’s a good environment.”
Of course, not as good as Livestrong Sporting Park, right?
“It’s nice — the stadium is beautiful, and the atmosphere is pretty good,” Besler said. “It’s not like Livestrong, though, but Houston is always a tough place to play.”
Led by midfielder Brad Davis, who was the MLS MVP runner-up a year ago, the Dynamo has become more dangerous since switching to a 4-3-3 formation — the same system Sporting KC deploys — and adding Boniek Garcia as a designated player.
“We are definitely aware of those guys, and they are starting to get more comfortable together and playing out wide in the new system,” Besler said. “We don’t want to allow them any space, because that is when they are especially dangerous. They can make things happen in space.”
The two teams played to a scoreless draw July 7 in Kansas City, and Vermes doesn’t expect wholesale changes from that encounter.
“They might come a little more than last time when they tended to drop off a lot more,” Vermes said. “But they are at home, so you have to come out of the shell a little.”