Five months ago, Sporting Kansas City got the victory they have been looking for over the Houston Dynamo. The 1-0 win at BBVA Compass Stadium snapped Houston’s 34-game unbeaten streak at home and saw Sporting celebrate on the Dynamo’s field.
Now the clubs will rekindle their rivalry Wednesday night with the Dynamo intent on running down a team that sits just four points ahead of them in the conference standings. To do that, they will need to make sure that scene in May does no repeat itself.
“They won and it’s their right to do whatever they want to do,” said center back Bobby Boswell. “Obviously they were very happy with that result. You could tell how they came together on the field after that, but they earned that right. Our job is to make sure they don’t have that option this time around.”
If Houston does that, it will go a long ways to claiming a playoff spot; which a win and a loss by the Chicago Fire and a loss or draw by the New England Revolution would clinch.
Houston is preparing for the type of intense battle that always comes with playing SKC. To come out on top, the focus is on winning those little battles on second balls and taking the game to the visitors.
“We have to be alert of the second ball and to pounce on it and take advantage when their center backs are out of position,” said left back Corey Ashe. “We have to win those, if we win those it lets them know they’re in it for the long haul. We need to be dominant.”
Being the first to loose balls will be important. Energy, intensity and physicality have been integral to winning in the series between the two. Even if Sporting, like Houston, are missing key players in Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, the Dynamo are expecting the same intense SKC squad they are used too.
“I don’t know what Peter’s going to try and do, but I know whenever they play, they try and win the game and make things uncomfortable for you,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “For us it’s important that we have to bring the right amount of intensity and second balls will be a key tomorrow.”
Doing that will keep recent history from repeating itself, but the players aren't preoccupied with exacting revenge. As Houston prepares for the next big battle against Sporting the focus is on winning the game, not making up for May's loss. For the Dynamo, there's too many other things on the line.
“There’s always something you can bring up to create a buzz,” said right back Kofi Sarkodie. “Right now our focus is to continue our unbeaten streak and continue our playoff run.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.