Preview: Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC 8/4
Sporting Kansas City will be coming to Houston this Saturday to face the Dynamo. After losing to Houston at home in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 match last month, SKC will be out for revenge. And since both teams remain firmly in the playoff hunt despite recent struggles, this has all the potential for a tense match.
The Dynamo come into the match having lost two in a row, both in disappointing fashion. We’ve already talked about the match against Philadelphia, but the last match against Portland was particularly unfortunate. Houston played really well the first half staying out on the front foot and working the ball downfield to the front three. And this reflected in an even score at the half.
But, after the half, Houston was playing a conservative, almost worried style of football. Portland made the Dynamo pay for that, winning 2-1.
Meanwhile, SKC is coming off a 3-2 loss to Dallas FC at home, a score that flatters Sporting’s performance. KC’s defense was downright porous on the wings allowing Michael Barrios to net a hatrick. Beyond that, Sporting’s offense was shut down after their first goal, until the 96th minute when SKC scored their second.
The Teams So Far
When it comes to slumps, perhaps no team is further mired in one than Sporting Kansas City. Peter Vermes’ side hasn’t won a game since managing to come back from a 2-0 deficit at home against the Dynamo in late June. With a quick look at recent match scores, it’s easy to see the problem: SKC’s defense just hasn’t shown up.
SKC has only been held scoreless once in the past six games, the other five games SKC managed to get two goals. However, a lot of those defensive inadequacies may be a result of tired legs due to a packed schedule in July.
The Dynamo, on the other hand, are a harder nut to crack. There have been times this season, like the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 win over SKC, where the Dynamo looked like one of the most dynamic sides in the league (pun intended). Other times, Houston loses to Portland, without ever coming alive in the second half.
The differences can be staggering between games, and the only thing that I can really chock this up to is the mentality. Not of the players, but the mentality of the game plan. As anyone who has watched the Dynamo know, the team works best when being aggressive and always looking for the chance to counterattack. Far as I can tell, the team works best when executing the Dynamo gameplan alternative to playing more reactive soccer.
Things To Watch For
I anticipate that this match will be a pretty heated affair. While it’s still too early for any of these matches to be “must-wins” for playoff contention every point matters for both squads.
Presumably, SKC will be throwing everything that they have out for this game, but Houston probably won’t. With the Quarterfinal of the U.S. Open Cup against LAFC this upcoming Wednesday, Wilmer Cabrera is unlikely to use all of the typical starters.
With that in mind, there are two players to watch for in this match: Gerso Fernandes and Tomas Martinez. It was Fernandes who scored the equalizer in Sporting’s match against Dallas FC, and he did so with magnificent style. Though he hasn’t started as often for SKC as he did in 2017, his speed and ability to dribble into the box from the right wing will go a long way against Houston. Martinez is an odd case. He’s never really considered in the same league as Elis, Monatos, and Quioto but nonetheless, Martinez’ work rate is incredible.
Despite being positioned in an attacking midfield role, Martinez often looks like a box to box central midfielder with how much he contributes on both sides of the ball. Watch for the pace he sets, as it may very well stay where he puts it for the whole game.