Preview: Houston Dynamo at Sporting Kansas City

A trip to MLS Cup is on the line as two rivals go into the second leg level on aggregate

THE BASICS
Houston Dynamo at Sporting Kansas City
Saturday, November 23, 6:30 p.m. CT
Sporting Park

BROADCAST INFORMATION
NBC Sports Network - 6:30 p.m. CHANNEL LISTINGS
Yahoo Sports Radio 1560 - 6:30 p.m. (6:00 p.m. pregame)
Balia 101.7 FM - 6:30 p.m. (6:00 p.m. pregame)

PREVIEW

The Houston Dynamo (No. 4 seed) and Sporting Kansas City (No. 2 seed) will complete the Eastern Conference Championship with leg two on Saturday after playing to a 0‐0 draw in the first leg on Nov. 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The winner of Saturday’s game at Sporting Park will advance to MLS Cup 2013 and meet the winner of the Western Conference Championship between Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers. 2013 marks the third time Houston and Kansas City have met in a conference championship after the Dynamo won the 2007 Western Conference Final and 2011 Eastern Conference Final.

REFEREES

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo; AR1 (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; AR2 (opposite): Frank Anderson; 4th: Edvin Jurisevic

INJURY REPORT, PRESENTED BY HOUSTON METHODIST

HOUSTON DYNAMO -- OUT: Jermaine Taylor – Left foot fracture; QUESTIONABLE: Will Bruin – Left foot sprain; Ricardo Clark – Left knee sprain

SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- Lawrence Olum – Fractured fibula; Peterson Joseph &ndash Illness; Josh Gardner – Left ankle sprain

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • HOU 6 wins, 22 goals … KC 4 wins, 19 goals … Ties 8
  • 2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 0 wins, 1 GF … KC 1 win, 2 GF … Ties 2
  • AT SPORTING PARK: 5/26: KC 1, HOU 1 (Kamara 68 -- Davis 46+)
  • MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: HOU 3 wins, 6 GF … KC 1 win, 1 GF … 1 tie

HOUSTON DYNAMO

  • The teams have played to consecutive scoreless draws. The first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship ended 0-0, as the final regular season meeting between the teams, Oct. 9 in Houston. "We knew it was going to come down to the game in Kansas City anyways, being how competitive and how close these teams are," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear.
  • While both teams will be facing injury concerns in the second leg, the Dynamo's are more serious. Ricardo Clark was forced out of the first leg in the first half with a leg injury, while 9-goal scorer Will Bruin suffered a left foot injury during the game. “We’re going through this as if they’re going to play,” Kinnear said. “They’re not training, they’re working with the staff and we’ll see how they are closer to the game. If they’re not available to play, we’re OK with that. It’s not wonderful news, but that’s the way it goes."
  • Omar Cummings made just 11 appearances in the regular season, one as a starter, and did not score a goal. But he now has two goals in two substitute appearances in the postseason. “Credit to Omar for scoring two big goals,” Boswell said. “Kind of comes out of nowhere from the beginning of the year to the playoffs. It’s a great time to start thriving.” Said Kinnear: “I was just trying to break their line of pressure and the best way we were doing that was to probably getting [Boniek Garcia] on the ball in the middle. So we pushed him in there and I think our attack was a little bit more together. We dropped in Omar to go to that 4-5-1, but still wanted Omar to join the attack too, which he did well.”
  • With Clark's exit, Brad Davis moved into a central midfield role, with Andrew Driver coming in on the flank. After Bruin came off at halftime, Cam Weaver -- who last started a game Sept. 14 -- came in up top. “You always prepare yourself because you never know what can happen,” Weaver said on Wednesday. “You never know what can happen during games. Guys get injured and you want to be prepared when your number’s called. You always have to be ready no matter what.”
  • Only one player on each side of the tie was called up for national team duty. The Dynamo had Boniek Garcia join Honduras for a pair of friendlies -- though he didn't leave the USA. "He’s a freak when it comes to his work rate,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “He’s a guy that, fortunately for us, can handle a little extra workload. He’s going to come back and be 100 percent for the Dynamo.”
  • Corey Ashe was suspended for the first leg, and Mike Chabala made his first start since Sept. 8, his only league start of the season. "When Jermaine [Taylor] was down obviously it could have creat- ed a little bit of a shuffle in the back line and with Corey [Ashe]'s suspension but Mike is ready and probably works harder than anybody here in practice, so it's never going to be a fitness problem. Like Eric Brunner, he's stepped into play these playoffs," said Kinnear.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

  • Sporting finished with a win and two draws -- both 0-0 results -- in the three matches in Houston this season. They have not lost to the Dynamo in any competition since the first leg of last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals. “I can’t really admonish anybody for not giving everything they had,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “I don’t necessarily think that they were dangerous and we weren’t either. It was a game played between the boxes.”
  • Kansas City has won just once in the last five meetings between the teams at Sporting Park – the 1-0 victory in the second leg of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals (Houston won the first leg 2-0). “I thought we did one aspect of what we wanted to do, which is that we didn't want to give up any goals (in Houston),” Vermes said. “I thought that was an important aspect of the game. It wasn't an easy game to play in, and we got a result. Now, it doesn't mean anything. Now, it's just a final at home.”
  • In the 46 all-time two-leg series in MLS history, the teams that have hosted the second leg have advanced 25 times. And the home team in that return match has gone 28-8-10 all-time. Teams winning the first leg have won 20 series while teams losing the first leg have advanced 13 times. "The reason the higher seed gets the second leg at home is for situations like this" said defender Matt Besler. "The away team in the first leg can get a result like that and now we get to come home and play in front of fans for the last 90 minutes and hopefully get the win."
  • Three of Sporting’s four goals scored in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs have come from defenders (Aurelien Collin 2, Seth Sinovic 1). Four of Sporting's last five postseason goals have come from defenders. “Our objective wasn’t necessarily to score a goal, not losing of course, and that’s what we did,” Collin said of the first leg. “We could have scored a couple. I could have scored one. We didn’t, but we didn’t lose. They have to come to our place. Everybody in the league knows it’s difficult to play in our place.”
  • Sporting are hoping to have midfielders Peterson Joseph and Lawrence Olum both available. Olum suffered a fractured fibula in the East semifinals, while Joseph has not trained since suffering a blackout during training two weeks ago.