Houston-Sporting playoff series could be decided on flanks

Go back and watch the previous matches between Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo and the battles for the wings have been some of the best to watch.

Those matchups have epitomized the back and forth between two teams who look to push the other, both physically and mentally.

In their MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal, which begins on Sunday (2:30 pm CT, NBC, BUY TICKETS), the flanks will once again be important battlegrounds. Sporting’s Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi, plus wingbacks Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic, provide a combination of relentlessness and athleticism that the Dynamo duo of Corey Ashe and youngster Kofi Sarkodie will have to contend with.

“It’s going to be a good battle,” Ashe told MLSsoccer.com. “I love playing against Kei, love playing against Graham. I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely going to be competitive, and that fire’s going to be coming out.”

Ashe, in particular, enters the match on an extended run of good form. The 5-foot-7 midfielder turned fullback was instrumental in slowing Chicago’s fast wingers in Wednesday’s Eastern Conference Knockout match.

“One guy that doesn’t get enough credit is Corey,” said Brad Davis. “Knowing that I have him behind me is a huge confidence booster and allows me to take more chances. These games, he loves playing just as much as all of us. He’s been there before. He’s a veteran on this team now and knows what it takes.”

Sporting has shown the tendency to rotate their two wingers, meaning Ashe will likely see time against both the crafty Zusi and the athletic Kamara. Same goes for his counterpart on the other side of the field.

Sarkodie is not a veteran and doesn’t “know what it takes.” A first round draft pick in 2011, he had made only 10 career appearances before becoming a regular in the starting lineup two months ago.

“It’s taken a little bit of time for him to get some playing time,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “But he’s worked hard to get his chance, and I think he’s been playing well for us. He’s kept his game simple, which I think helps him.”

Against top seed Sporting’s formidable flank attack, he’s going to have to keep it simple again for the fifth-seeded Dynamo to have a chance to pull of the upset.

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.