Blue knows what to do tomorrow. See you at Sporting Park!
One of the underlying storylines surrounding Saturday's Eastern Conference Championship is whether or not the winner will secure a berth in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League group stage. Up until now, the four American teams that participated in Champions League were the winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters' Shield winner and the two MLS Cup finalists.
SI.com's Brian Straus reported last week that MLS had submitted a proposal to change the rules for qualification. Under the new rules, the spot given to the MLS Cup runner-up would instead go to the regular season conference champion that did not win the Supporters' Shield. Today, MLSsoccer.com confirmed those reports.
So what does that mean for Saturday's match?
Under the current rules, D.C. United (Open Cup winner) and the New York Red Bulls (Supporters' Shield winner) are in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League. If the new proposal gets rejected by CONCACAF, the two teams that play in MLS Cup will secure the additional two spots given to American teams. If the new proposal gets approved, then D.C. United (Open Cup winner), the New York Red Bulls (Supporters' Shield winner) and the Portland Timbers (Western Conference regular season champion) will have secured berths into next year's tournament.
That means that for Sporting KC to advance to the group stage of the 2014-15 CCL, either they OR the Portland Timbers would need to win MLS Cup. Since the Timbers would have already secured their berth as regular season champions of the Western Conference, if they were to win MLS Cup as well, one of their berths would go to the team with the most regular season points that has not already clinched a spot (i.e. Sporting KC).
Sporting KC advanced to the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League after winning the 2012 Open Cup. Sporting KC finished first in their group and will place Mexican giant Crul Azul next March in the quarterfinals.
What are you thoughts on the first leg which ended in a 0-0 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium?
"The thing about the first leg is we just kind of have to throw it out because you are talking about two tired teams and a couple of absences for Houston (Ricardo Clark and Will Bruin left the matches early with injuries, Corey Ashe was suspended yellow cards). I guess what I'm saying is I just don't know how much we can look at the last game and say what it's going to do for the game coming up in Kansas City. I just think it's going to be a completely different look all around."
What are you expecting to see from Saturday's match?
"I haven't seen the latest injury updates on Ricardo Clark or Will Bruin so I think that really does affect them. Ricardo Clark means so much to Houston. If he's able to play, Houston gets just a little more push out of the midfield. They're going forward a little bit more. If Will Bruin is healthy, I think Kansas City centerbacks have to be a little more honest in how they approach it. Will Bruin isn't a fast player but he's got a little bit of a burst of speed where he can time things and get by guys. If those two guys aren't playing, then I think it's a lot of Houston sitting back a little more and waiting for the counterattack. If they are playing, Houston might come out and try to possess the ball a little bit more. Either way, I think Houston's approach in these kind of games is to be pretty cautious and then attack selectively and hope that the other team makes the mistake like what happened in New York. They'll have the faith that the other team will make the mistake. I think we'll see a game of more energy but I think we will see a pretty cautious approach from Houston and that makes it incumbent upon Kansas City to go take the game to them. If Kansas City gets an early goal, then Houston has to come out and play."
What things will you be watching for from Saturday's match?
"I think it's always interesting to see the way Kansas City uses Graham Zusi and the way he plays his way into the game. Does he start out wide as we've seen before. Does he tuck inside pretty quickly and come back to do a little bit more of the playmaking from those interior areas. Does he figure out on that day that he needs to stay out a little wider if Benny Feilhaber's in the lineup. If so, maybe Graham can stay a little bit wider and let Benny playmake from those central areas. Honestly, when I watch Kansas City I just always like watching Matt Besler play. His instincts are so good, the way he reads the game is so good. I always just end up watching a lot of that guy because I comitted 18 fouls this year. For a central defender, that's not very much and it's because he reads the game so well and I just enjoy watching him against Will Bruin or whoever it is, might be Omar Cummings. A guy he'll have to play a little differently because he is so fast. Just watching him is something I'll always end up doing a lot of."
What's your prediction for Saturday's match?
"2-0 Kansas City is what I would probably say. I'm not really quite sure who the goals come from because Kansas City tends to get goals from a lot of different players including Aurelien Collin (two goals in playoffs)."
Psst, we're almost 24 hours away from the game we've all been waiting for...a postseason rematch with the Houston Dynamo, on our home field, with an MLS Cup berth awaiting the winner. It all kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday night at a sold out Sporting Park. Check out the videos below to get ready for leg two in the Eastern Conference Championship.
Start it off with the hype: One Game. 90 Minutes.
And a :15 teaser for NBC Sports national TV broadcast...
Molly Dreska serves up gameday info in our Matchday series...
And a little MLSsoccer.com love for All-Star Graham Zusi...
Still need more? Check out videos from Thursday's press conferences with Manager Peter Vermes and Matt Besler. And keep an eye out on the video page at MLSsoccer.com for four more videos coming to preview #SKCvHOU through the eyes of Besler, Benny Feilhaber, Kerry Zavagnin and Kyle Martino.
Sporting Kansas City returns to Sporting Park on Saturday evening as they host the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. Saturday's match will be the fifth meeting this season between the two sides. The aggregate score currently stands at 0-0 with the two teams playing to scoreless draw in the first leg at Houston.
Jermaine Taylor, Ricardo Clark, and Will Bruin are all listed on Houston's injury report. Taylor is out for Saturday's match due to a left foot fracture. Bruin and Clark are questionable for the match and it's not clear if either will be in the starting lineup. If Bruin is unable to go, it will likely be Giles Barnes and Omar Cummings starting up top. Clark's injury is a major concern as he's been one of Houston's most consistent players all season. Andrew Driver would be the likely candidate to move into the lineup if Clark is unavailable to go on Saturday.
The Dynamo are a perennial threat in the MLS Cup Playoffs and showed their ability to get results on the road in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Houston's overall record at Sporting Park is 1-2-3 has only one loss in the semifinal round (Conference Championship) of the playoffs. The draw means Houston will likely play a bit more aggressive than normally but they'll still mainly rely on counterattacks and set pieces to generate chances. It's a veteran-laden side that will provide a tough test for Sporting KC.
Boniek Garcia (Midfielder) - A creative midfielder who will be Houston's attacking threat on the right side
Tally Hall (Goalkeeper) - Houston's goalkeeper will be key if they are to get a result at Sporting Park
Brad Davis (Midfielder) - He arguably has the best left foot in all of Major League Soccer
|at New York (2-1 win)||vs Sporting KC (0-0 draw)|
Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler joined MLS ExtraTime Radio on Thursday to preview Saturday's Eastern Conference Championship second leg vs. the Houston Dynamo. The sold-out match at Sporting Park will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT and can be seen nationally on NBC Sports Network and Univision Deportes. It can also be heard locally on Sports Radio 810-WHB and La Gran D 1340.
Besler discussed the matchup with the Dynamo, his thoughts on the U.S. men's national team and his upcoming wedding. Read excerpts from the interview below or listen to the full podcast of the show, which includes an interview with Portland Timbers Technical Director Gavin Wilkinson.
Thoughts on facing the Houston Dynamo
"Me, personally, I enjoy playing Houston. If we are going to have to beat somebody to make MLS Cup, I would rather it be Houston."
On the team's home-field advantage heading into Saturday
"People are saying we have that home-field advantage because we tied 0-0 and have that one game at home. I feel like we do have that advantage because of that, but we have to be careful not to look into that too much. It's one game and anything can happen in one game."
On his personal performance this year compared to last year
"I think this year I have just had to manage a lot more things. In 2012, I pretty much played every minute for Sporting. I was consistently in there, but this year, because of national team call-ups and an injury, here and there, I have had to juggle both of those things. It's not been the easiest thing to do."
Sporting KC Academy midfielder Andrew Brown tallied two assists last night as Bradley University advanced to the second round of the NCAA men's soccer tournament with a 3-2 win over Northwestern.
The sophomore midfielder, from Overland Park, put Bradley ahead 2-1 when Wojciech Wojcik headed home his corner kick in the 27th minute. Northwestern leveled the match late in the second half, but Wojcik's header off a Brown long ball in the seventh minute of overtime pushed the Braves to the second round of the tournament for the third time in school history.
Bradley will now take travel to the west coast to take on the University of California - Berkeley. The two teams will square off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. CT.
It was 47 years ago today that Peter Joseph Vermes was born in Willingboro, New Jersey. The Sporting KC manager is a pioneer in American soccer as he was part of the 1990 USMNT World Cup squad, one of the first to play overseas in Europe, and played in the inaugural season of Major League Soccer.
For today's Throwback Thursday, we take a look back to the early days of Vermes' soccer career where he was All-American at Rutgers University.
Happy Birthday Pete.
Sporting Kansas City returns home on Saturday evening as they host Houston in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. The two sides played to a scoreless draw in the opening leg on November 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium. If Sporting KC were to advance to MLS Cup, they would host the match based on having the best regular season record of the remaining teams.
A few in-depth stats
- Sporting KC is unbeaten in their last five matches against Houston
- Houston's record in the semifinal round (Conference Championship) is 4-1-2
- Sporting KC has had at least 12 or more shots in their last seven playoff matches
- Houston has only been shutout twice in their last 10 playoff matches (both vs Sporting KC)
- Sporting KC is averaging 57% possession and 80% passing accuracy in MLS matches at Sporting Park
All-Time Records (MLS Cup Playoffs)
Sporting KC: 15-18-5 (6-3-3 at home)
Houston: 14-7-6 (4-6-3 on the road)
All-Time Leaders (MLS Cup Playoffs)
|Sporting KC||Stat||Houston Dynamo|
|Zavagnin/Garcia 23||GAMES PLAYED||Brad Davis 22|
|Preki 8||GOALS||Brian Ching 7|
|Klein/Preki/Zusi 4||ASSISTS||Brad Davis 8|
|Tony Meola 62||SAVES||Tally Hall 37|
All-Time Stats (MLS Cup Playoffs)
|Sporting KC||Houston Dynamo|
|Goals Scored (Allowed)||53 (53)||38 (25)|
|Shots (on goal)||514 (213)||329 (135)|
|Fouls Committed (Suffered)||637 (630)||382 (394)|