Sporting KC hosts the Houston Dynamo on Friday evening at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. It's the third meeting this season between the two sides this season and 15th overall in regular season play. It's an important match with both teams fighting for position in the Eastern Conference and Sporting KC still alive in the race for the Supporters' Shield.
Head to Head
The Dynamo have the all-time advantage against Sporting KC in League play with six wins in 14 matches and three wins in seven matches at KC. Houston manager Dominic Kinnear has a career record of 8-5-7 against KC, while Peter Vermes is 2-2-3 against Houston.
Houston has scored 10 first half and 10 second half goals in the regular season series, while Sporting KC have six goals in the final 15 minutes (76-90).
Paulo Nagamura has started the most matches against Houston (14) in his MLS career, Michael Harrington has the most assists (3), and Teal Bunbury is tied with Kei Kamara for the most goals (3). Brad Davis and Bring Ching lead Houston with four goals and four assists all-time versus KC.
The two teams played to a scoreless draw at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on July 7th before Houston won 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium 11 days later.
The two teams have almost identical records on headers with both scoring 10 (Dynamo have conceded one more with five). KC have more goals from crosses (nine) but Houston have scored twice as many goals from corner kicks (eight). Both teams have been shut-out six times. The Dynamo are averaging 1.43 goals scored per game (Sporting KC 1.26) but conceding 1.18 goals per game (0.89 for Sporting KC).
Sporting KC has had a player score two goals in an MLS match only once this season while Houston has had four (Will Bruin twice, Calen Carr, Macoumba Kandji).
Sporting KC have the season's longest winning streak with seven matches while Houston have the longest unbeaten streak (6-0-2).
Sporting recently won their first MLS match of the season when trailing at half, but the Dynamo have yet to accomplish that feat (0-5-1). Both teams have seven wins when leading at halftime.
Both teams have commited more fouls than suffered. Sporting KC has more yellow cards (45 to 26) and red cards (2 to 1) than Houston this season.
Jimmy Nielsen has an impressive 0.89 goal against average compared to Tally Hall's respectable 1.19 GAA. Nielsen has 15 wins, 11 shutouts, and 56 saves. Hall has 12 wins, 11 shutouts, and 71 saves.
Sporting KC and Houston both play a 4-3-3 formation.
Photo by Kory Brinton
I recently interviewed Houston Dynamo commentator Glenn Davis to get his thoughts on the upcoming match against Sporting KC. He talked about the Dynamo's season (it's similarities to Sporting's last year), Brad Davis, Geoff Cameron, and previewed the keys for Friday.
Below are some excerpts from the interview.
On Houston's season (7 away games to start season)
It's been quite an interesting season. I think there's been different phases to it but much like Sporting (in 2011), the Dynamo had to go on the road early in the year. They kept in touch in the Eastern Conference.
A lot of drama in opening the stadium and a lot of passion and excitement down here. It is a remarkable stadium (BBVA Compass Stadium). We know what impact your stadium had there in Kansas City.
So there was that phase and then the Dynamo kind of platformed a little bit and leveled out. And there was this phase where they went 6-0-2 and that was after they made a system switch to a 4-3-3 under Dominic Kinnear.
And really the big story this year was the signing of Designated Player Boniek Garcia from Honduras. He's just been absolutely outstanding for this team. They go 6-0-2 with him and then kind of leveled out and haven't played as well until recently, finally getting a result over Real Salt Lake in a game where both teams were missing a ton of players (with their national teams).
On Dynamo player Brad Davis
He's had an outstanding year. He's had to switch from playing out on the left to becoming more of an interior midfielder when the team went to the 4-3-3 setup. Him and Boniek Garcia have found each other in games. It's funny how these creative guys end up finding and working off each other. It's been an interesting season for him and he's scored some goals as well.
On Geoff Cameron going to Stoke City
This has worked out for everybody. This was a win-win for everybody. It was a win-win for Major League Soccer, a win-win for Geoff Cameron who provided great service here to the Houston Dynamo and loyalty during his career. It's a win-win for the Dynamo and their manager Dominic Kinnear. They all deserve great praise in this move but Jermaine Taylor's been a real key slotting in at center-back. He's athletic and been excellent positionally. That's really sort of lessened the impact of losing a quality player like Geoff Cameron.
On Sporting KC
Athletic, best team at playing the 4-3-3 setup in my opinion. Big, strong, athletic, competitive. Much in the mindset of their head coach, Peter Vermes.
It's a solid outfit. You start with the goalkeeper who is excellent in Jimmy Nielsen. You got Collin leading the way in the back. Industrious midfield with Roger Espinoza that's also got a lot of skill and vision and idea. Then you get up front with the Kamara's of the world, the Sapong's of the world. You've got big, strong, physical strikers that can play the game. There's not a lot of weaknesses in this team. I think everyone's pretty aware of that in MLS.
On how Houston will approach the match
I think anytime you go on the road you see a 4-3-3 moprh into a 4-5-1 and at times become more defensive. And really try to win the turf battle in the middle of the field with additional players in that area (midfield). But again, I think a lot of your mindset for a Friday game after World Cup Qualifying is the overall health of the team and what people have to give after traveling and being in a qualifying phase.
A lot of the Dynamo approach is going to come down to key players (after playing internationally) and that's only going to be determined a day or to prior to the game on Friday night.
Keys to Friday's match
For me, when you play Sporting Kansas City, you have to go there and match their work ethic. These are two of the hardest working teams in all of MLS.
Set pieces are always a big key when you have the likes of Kamara and Sapong. For the Dynamo you have the likes of Will Bruin and Bobby Boswell who can produce in the air.
In the end, for me, these two teams, comes down to something special somebody does. Someone pouncing on a mistake. You saw how close these games have been in the past. These are two highly competitive teams and two highly competitive coaches.
Photo by Kory Brinton / Upper 90 Photography
How cool is that photo? So much of what makes Sporting Kansas City home matches a one-of-a-kind gameday experience is captured. There's the setting, state-of-the-art LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The moment, a championship match hosted here in Kansas City. And this team, whose winning ways have Sporting KC in first place in the Eastern Conference and the team's spot secured for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League.
And then there's that capacity crowd, behind the boys in blue with a sea of support that turns the stadium into a Cauldron of collective cheers and chants, applause and animation. That atmosphere -- which will be nationally showcased on the NBC Sports Network for each of the team's next two home games -- is accentuated by the colorful displays of banners, signs, attire and flags that amplify the buzz and bring LSP to life.
Which is why Sporting Club, Sporting KC and LIVESTRONG Sporting Park are introducing a new stadium policy aimed at allowing the atmosphere to continue to grow by permitting all fans, in all sections to wave flags, within the following guidelines:
- If the flag is attached to a pole, the pole must be made of hollow PVC plastic piping
- The flag and flagpole will be subject to the normal search policies of the stadium
- The flag must be free of all commercial, offensive and/or inappropriate messages
- The flag should not be waved during the run of play so as to not obstruct the view of any guests
- The flag must not obstruct the view of stadium signage or present any safety hazard
- Sporting KC reserves the right to remove and/or confiscate any sign, banner or flag
This policy strives to encourage even greater crowd involvement in building upon the home-field advantage and will be in effect for all remaining Sporting KC home games in 2012, beginning with Friday's Eastern Conference Championship rematch with the Houston Dynamo and continuing with a visit from our good friends (they get touchy when we use the word rivals) from Chicago on September 28.
As some may know, the Fire front office feels pretty passionately about having the freedom to fly flags at MLS stadiums and events. So much so that their home stadium, Toyota Park, prohibits "Poles to Display Banners, Flags, etc." and their head coach Frank Klopas had his staff remove the KC Cauldron's banners at a Reserve League match earlier this year.
Frank Klopas complained to Fire FO and made the Cauldron take our banners down at a reserve game. Haha
— The Cauldron (@KCCauldron) May 13, 2012
Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara and Peterson Joseph were all active on international duty this past week. Below is a full recap for each player.
Roger Espinoza - (Honduras beat Cuba 1-0)
The midfielder was unavailable for Honduras in their September 7th win against Cuba (3-0) due to a red card in the Olympics. He returned to the team for the home match against Cuba on September 11th and had a significant impact. Espinoza assisted on the match winner when he beat a defender to a 50/50 ball, dribbled towards goal and sent a cross to teammate Jerry Bengston.
Honduras are in second place in Group C. The team will travel to play Panama on October 12th and host Canada on October 16th. Video of Roger's assist can be viewed here.
Kei Kamara - (Sierre Leone drew with Tunisia 2-2)
Kamara played the full match as Sierra Leone couldn't hold onto a 1-0 lead early and 2-1 lead late in the second half against Tunisia. Sierre Leone had most of the possession early but the momentum switched to Tunisia in the second half.
The two teams will meet again on October 13th with the aggregate winner qualifying for the 2013 African Cup of Nations. Sierra Leone will likely need a win to advance.
Peterson Joseph (Haiti qualified for Caribbean Cup)
Joseph started three matches for Haiti in 2012 Caribbean Cup qualifying. Haiti defeated Saint Martin (7-0), Bermuda (3-1) and Puerto Rico (2-1) to win Group A.
Haiti moves into Group A of the second round of qualifying to be played October 18-25. The Caribbean Cup is held every two years and determines which teams will qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi put in quite a performance last night for the U.S. Men's National Team in their 1-0 victory over Jamaica at Columbus Crew Stadium. Zusi made his fourth international appearance, all of which have come in 1-0 wins coincidentally, but last night's cap was his first in a competitive match and came in a vital FIFA World Cup qualifier to move the U.S. back atop the group with two games remaining in the round.
Zusi started and played 72 minutes in Jurgen Klinsmann's squad, receiving high praise not just from the ESPN2 commentary team of Taylor Twellman and Ian Darke during their nationally televised broadcast, but also from national media members in their analysis of the match. Check out some of the comments below...
For this being his first big USMNT match, Graham Zusi has been great. Very poised, active and smart with his decisions. Looks like a veteran. - Ives Galarcep, FOX Sports
Didn't look out of place at all, despite his relative inexperience. Cracked a shot off the bar in the 6th minute and just missed the target on another in the 23rd. He definitely proved himself with this performance. -- Jeff Carlisle, ESPN.com
The best player on the field in the first half, he banged an opportunistic shot off the crossbar and looped an excellent cross that yielded a chance neutralized by a pushing foul on Herculez Gomez. His presence and connections with Cherundolo on the right flank spearheaded the U.S. first-half dominance. -- Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
Steve Cherundolo and Graham Zusi exerted the most impact in the first half by controlling the right side and posing problems in the attacking third. -- Kyle McCarthy, GOAL.com
When Graham Zusi goes forward, he doesn't lose the ball...Zusi was excellent for his entire shift, and deserves whatever plaudits are going to come his way (and there will be plenty). -- Matthew Doyle, MLSSoccer.com
Grasped his first start in a competitive match by the horns and worked extremely well with Steve Cherundolo down the right. Hit the post in the first half. -- Shane Evans, GOAL.com
Arguably, he could have done better with his chances in the first half, but overall it was a great night from the former Maryland Terp. The flow of U.S.’s attack definitely suffered when he exited the game. -- J.R. Eskilson and Travis Clark, TopDrawerSoccer.com
Surprise starter Graham Zusi put together one of the more impressive performances for the Nats, especially in the first half when he played with a lot of energy. He combined very well with Steve Cherundolo down the right side, as if the two were regular partners. -- John Halloran, BleacherReport.com
A very good first half for the Sporting KC midfielder, as he saw his early effort denied by the crossbar. He had great understanding of knowing exactly when to pinch in to allow Cherundolo to get wide, and the pair worked well together to wreak havoc on that right side. Zusi wasn't as effective in the second half as the pace of the match slowed down and he was on the other end of a few reckless Jamaican tackles. All in all, a solid job as he won his midfield battle and put in a workmanlike effort to help contribute to a very important 3 points. -- Alecko Eskandarian, Sports Illustrated
Like Williams, the Sporting KC midfielder had his best night in a US shirt thus far. Zusi aided possession expertly, threatened occasionally and was one slightly lower shot from competing for Man of the Match honors. -- Greg Seltzer, MLSSoccer.com
No player helped his case more than Zusi, who was the only M.L.S. player in the starting lineup. He looked comfortable in the team and greatly improved its possession, and he seemed to have a nice chemistry with Cherundolo on the right side. Zusi was both solid playing wide but also when he moved centrally. He had been a fringe player in the past but he should be part of the team moving forward. -- Brian Sciaretta, NY Times
For more on Zusi's strong showing, check out feature stories written by GOAL.com and MLSSoccer.com on the Sporting KC playmaker's impact on the international level. Highlights from the match and postgame reaction, including an interview with Zusi in the locker room, are available on the U.S. Soccer YouTube page.
Knighton Business Solutions teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters to host a clinic with Sporting Kansas City players Korede Aiyegbusi, Lawrence Olum and Soony Saad at Sporting Club Training Center in Swope Park on Wednesday. Over 35 big-little matches attended the event and were guided through three different stations by the Sporting Kansas City players and coaching staff. At the conclusion of the session, each little received a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championship poster signed by Aiyegbusi, Olum and Saad as well as a snack provided by Knighton. In addition, each match received a pair of tickets to the Sporting Kansas City game against the Chicago Fire on September 28 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
All littles were then entered into a raffle and the winner, Amelia, was gifted a Sporting Kansas City jersey signed by the entire team. We had the opportunity to talk to one of the littles in attendance, and when we asked nine-year-old DaKarie from Eastwood Hills Elementary about the experience, the corners of his mouth turned up as he maturely responded, "I have a nice time out with the players and other kids." DaKarie and the rest of the littles surprised the Sporting Kansas City players with thank you cards with help from their bigs.
Upon receiving the cards, Aiyegbusi said, "It's a good feeling to go out and make someones day, but it's even better when you know the feeling is mutual. The kids were giving us hugs and wanted to take pictures with us, and when they gave us those cards, it just kind of makes your day and reminds you why you're doing what you're doing."
To see for yourself how DaKarie and the rest of the elementary schoolers interacted with the players, check out the slide show below:
Who is the most desirable member of the Sporting KC family? Is it All-American Matt Besler? Exotic Frenchman Aurelien Collin? Soony Saad with his boy band good looks? Is it smooth-talking C.J. Sapong? Or prom king look-alike, Konrad Warzycha?
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and WRONG AGAIN.
And its least favorite city is Seattle.
Are you still guessing? We’ll make it easy. Coming in at 3 feet 15 pounds, this silver fox has been around. It’s the first piece of hardware Kansas City has seen in eight years, and it could be yours for the day.
WATCH OUR VIDEO, and submit your most romantic, creative love letter to the trophy in comments on our YouTube page. Our panel of experienced, desperate relationship gurus will choose their 10 favorites and announce the winners on Monday, September 17th. Be one of those lucky ten, and you’ll get to gallivant around town with this babe magnet of a trophy. Literally, it’s a magnet. It’s metal.
- Must be 18 years or older or have parental consent
- Winners must submit video/photo footage of their day with the trophy to Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC staffers Marybeth Monaghan & Beth Brittain pose with Sporting KC defender Korede Aiyegbusi
Sporting Kansas City players Korede Aiyegbusi, Matt Besler and Jimmy Nielsen, along with 15 front office staff, served dinner last night at the St. James Place Community Kitchen on Troost Avenue in mid-town Kansas City. The kitchen is run by the Bishop Sullivan Center and seven full-time staff members who dedicate themselves to not only providing meals for the homeless but actively seeking out job opportunities to get their clients off the streets.
Doug Langer, member of the Kansas City Cauldron and driving force behind the efforts at St. James Place, welcomed the Sporting Kansas City community for the second time this year. Unfortunately, no karaoke in yesterday’s visit, however over 330 individuals stopped by to enjoy dinner and mingle with the Sporting Kansas City volunteers.
Sporting KC players Matt Besler and Jimmy Nielsen pose with Doug Langer and wife
Photo by Jamie Squire (Getty Images)
When the top two teams in the Eastern Conference face off in the finest soccer stadium in Major League Soccer, it tends to catch people's attention. Ten days ago, Sporting Kansas City's 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park was nationally televised on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes and now this week, Sports Illustrated readers will see the above image in the magazine's "Leading Off" photo series that graces the opening pages of each week's issue.
The photo, taken by Jamie Squire for Getty Images, catches Frenchman Aurelien Collin and Australian Tim Cahill mid-air in what was one of countless challenges between the two on the night. Who got the best of whom? Cahill's got Collin by the collar, but SI's caption "Agony of the Cleat" cleverly calls attention to the tangle of legs below.
Talk about a star-studded photo, that's three MLS All-Stars along with Cahill, who scored in each of the last two FIFA World Cups. Not to mention the best fans in MLS for a backdrop.
Pick up a copy of this week's edition of Sports Illustrated on newsstands now to see for yourself, but here's a sneak peek courtesy of SportingKC.com contributor Kelly McHugh.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is currently on pace for one of the best seasons ever by a goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. The White Puma has a goals against average (GAA) of 0.89 and leads MLS with 15 victories (11 shutouts) through 27 matches. The wins are a franchise record in the non-shootout era (since 2000).
Nielsen could join an exclusive company of 11 goalkeepers who have played at least 75% of their team's matches and kept a GAA under 1.00. The last goalkeepers to reach this mark were Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando (0.67) and the LA Galaxy's Donovan Ricketts (0.90) in the 2010 season. If he can continue his current rate, Nielsen would become the fourth goalkeeper to have a GAA under 0.90 while playing 75% or more of their team's matches.
In addition to his statistical excellence, Nielsen made key saves during the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final and penalty shootout and started in goal for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game.
Nielsen's stats (as of September 1, 2012)