The Houston Dynamo are hoping the third time's a charm when they visit Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (3 p.m.; TeleFutura, KPRC 950 AM, La Ranchera 850 AM).
The clubs first met this year on April 6 in College Station in a U.S. Open Cup match that KC won 1-0 in extra time. Then on July 16, the teams played to an exciting 1-1 draw that saw the Dynamo almost pull out a tie despite red cards to Colin Clark and Brian Ching. Sporting's Aurélien Collin tallied a deflected equalizer at the death. In the rubber match, the Dynamo are confident they have a handle on what they will see this weekend.
“There’s not many players on Kansas City that we haven’t seen live, bar Jéferson,” said Houston coach Dominic Kinnear. “We know the way they play, so if we step on the field and do a good enough job of preparing the team, then, individually and collectively, there will be no surprises at this point.”
The question is: In a match with major playoff implications, is that familiarity helpful?
“We know them well, and they know us well, but in the end it’s a big game because they're a point ahead of us,” defender Andre Hainault said. “Does it help having seen them a lot? Sure. But we know what we need to do, and we know the task at hand.”
Houston will have a hole to fill in the middle of their defense, as Bobby Boswell is suspended because of yellow-card accumulation. Looking forward, Kinnear will have to examine his options to repair the back line, and there could be some interesting possibilities.
“I think with Andre and Jermaine [Taylor] back, there’s some possibilities there,” Kinnear said. “With Luiz [Camargo] in midfield, there’s also the possibility of pushing Geoff [Cameron] back there. It just depends on the overall fitness of the group.”
Regardless of who is playing where, Houston is banking on a level of comfort among the defenders.
“Whether it’s Jermaine or a guy like Geoff, whoever it is, we’ll have a couple of trainings before and we’ll be fine,” said Hainault, who has been a mainstay at center back. “We know each other well. We’ve been here all season and played together, so it’s nothing new.”
Pitch not a concern
Kansas City’s LIVESTRONG Sporting Park is one of the gems of MLS, but the pitch has taken a beating in recent weeks, both literally and in the media. The field conditions have been a topic of discussion, but Dynamo players were not concerned.
“Over my career, I’ve played on a lot of bad fields,” Ching said. “It’s not something we think about, and we’ll just have to deal with it.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dynamoexaminer.