SportingKC.com's "Five Things" feature will highlight the top storylines, players to watch and more for upcoming matches.
Sporting Kansas City travels to the Houston Dynamo in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. It's the fourth meeting between the two sides this season and third at BBVA Compass Stadium. The official watch party will be at No Other Pub with food and drink specials. Live coverage of the match starts at 8:30 pm CT on FOX Sports KC, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB, and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish radio). Here's five things to know for #HOUvSKC.
No Margin For Error
After a long regular season, everything is on the line on Thursday night. Many playoff matches are decided by the thinnest of margins and one moment is usually the difference between advancing or being eliminated. Sporting KC's last six playoff matches have been decided by a goal or less, including two penalty kick shootouts. Thursday should be no different with two teams that are very familiar with each other (third meeting in three weeks) and will both be eager to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
History with Houston
Sporting KC and Houston have a long and rich history in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Overall, Sporting KC holds a 2-3-1 postseason record against the Dynamo that includes a three match unbeaten streak. The most recent being was a 2-1 victory by Sporting KC that propelled them into the 2013 MLS Cup. Outside of MLS play, the two sides have faced each other three consecutive years in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Sporting KC earned victories in 2015 and 2017 while the Dynamo were successful in 2016.
Both teams will be missing key players due to injury. For Houston, defender A.J. DeLaGarza will be out of Thursday's match due to a torn acl and could be replaced by former Sporting KC defender Jalil Anibaba. On the Sporting KC side, Tim Melia remains sidelined with a hamstring injury and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra is likely to start on Thursday night. Outside of those two injuries, both sides are expected to field strong lineups.
Players To Watch
Graham Zusi (SKC): The right back has been a major reason for Sporting KC's stout defense and set an MLS record for most chances created by a defender. Zusi's ability to make overlapping runs and provide quality service has led to 10 assists in all competitions this year.
Tyler Deric (HOU): The Houston goalkeeper was instrumental against Sporting KC in earning a 2-1 victory on October 11 and a 0-0 draw four days later at Children's Mercy Park. Sporting KC has shown an ability to generate chances at Houston and Deric could be the difference in deciding which team advances.
Key To The Match
Against a dangerous Dynamo side, Sporting KC will need to find their defensive form that led to a League low 29 goals conceded. There's reason to be optimistic as Sporting KC have had recent success at BBVA Compass Stadium, most notably earning a 2-0 win on June 28 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. A thorough and complete defensive performance will be key if Sporting KC are to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.