"By The Numbers" is a season-long series sponsored by The Kansas Department of Transportation, giving a statistical preview of every Sporting KC match.
Two familiar playoff foes lock horns again Thursday night when No. 5-seed Sporting Kansas City visits No. 4-seed Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:50 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest. Listeners can also follow live on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish).
Manager Peter Vermes' men are opening their playoff campaign away in the Knockout Round for the fourth straight year. Houston, meanwhile, is making its first playoff appearance since losing to eventual MLS Cup champion Sporting KC in the 2013 conference finals.
Recent form favors the Dynamo who are unbeaten in six straight entering Thursday, but Sporting KC boasts a wealth of postseason experience. We take a statistical look at Thursday's do-or-die matchup in our By The Numbers preview.
- Sporting KC and Houston have met in four previous editions of the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Dynamo prevailed in single-elimination conference championships in 2007 and 2011, then won 2-1 on aggregate in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Sporting KC exacted revenge in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, claiming a 2-1 aggregate victory.
- Sporting KC is winless in its last eight regular season meetings against Houston, going 0-4-4 ever since emerging 2-0 winners at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 6, 2014.
- Sporting KC has lost four of its last five matches at Houston in all competitions.
- Houston is set to make its first playoff appearance since falling to Sporting KC in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.
- Sporting KC is 10-14-13 in all competitions against Houston, including a 2-3-1 mark in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Sporting KC has faced Houston 26 times in all competitions since 2011, more than any other opponent (9-8-9 record). This stretch includes five playoff games (2011-2013) and four U.S. Open Cup matches (2011, 2015-2017).
- 2017 MLS record: 13-10-11, 50 points (5th in West)
- 2017 MLS home record: 12-1-4 (43 GF, 17 GA)
- Last five games: 3-0-2, 11 points (T-W-W-T-W)
- Last MLS match: W 3-0 vs. Chicago Fire on Sunday
- All-time playoff record: 14-8-6 (9-1-2 at home)
- Houston's 12-1-4 regular-season home record was the second-best in MLS in 2017.
- Houston led the Western Conference during the regular season with 2.53 goals per home game and a plus-26 home goal differential.
- Houston is riding a six-game unbeaten run, the second-longest among the 12 clubs in the playoffs.
- Houston was 11-0-4 during the regular season when scoring the first goal in a match.
- Houston has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, snapping the longest postseason drought in club history.
- Houston was the only team to have three players with 10 or more regular-season goals in 2017. Forward Erick "Cubo" Torres led the way with 14, while Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas added 10 each.
- Defender Adolfo Machado led MLS with 200 clearances during the regular season.
- Midfielder Alex led Houston in assists (11) and chances created (52) during the regular season.
- 2017 MLS record: 12-9-13, 49 points (5th in West)
- 2017 MLS away record: 2-8-7 (10 GF, 18 GA)
- Last five games: 0-3-2, 2 points (L-T-L-T-L)
- Last MLS match: L 1-2 at Real Salt Lake on Sunday
- All-time playoff record: 17-20-8 (2-16-5 away)
- Since winning the 2013 MLS Cup, Sporting KC has lost away in the Knockout Round for three straight years. This includes knockout-round losses to eventual MLS Cup champions Portland (2015) and Seattle (2016).
- SKC's 0.85 goals against average was the fifth-lowest for a single season in MLS history.
- SKC's 29 goals conceded were eight fewer than any other team in MLS. Their 18 road goals allowed were also a league-low.
- SKC scored just 10 road goals in 17 games this season, the second-fewest in MLS.
- SKC's six road losses (2-6-7) are the fewest among Western Conference clubs in 2017.
- SKC is 11-1-6 when scoring first this season, but 1-8-2 when conceding the first goal.
- SKC is making its club-record seventh consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Matt Besler led MLS defenders with 61 successful passes per game during the regular season. SKC boasts a 0.77 goals against average in the 26 league games he has started.
- Graham Zusi's 60 chances created were the most ever by a defender in a single regular season.
- Defender Ike Opara boasts a 16-6-13 record as a starter with five goals in all competitions. SKC has a 0.71 goals against average and 14 shutouts in the 35 matches he has played.
- Midfielder Ilie was second in MLS in total passes (2,295) and ranked third in passes completed (1,959) during the regular season.
- Forward Gerso leads Sporting KC with 10 goals in all competitions. Diego Rubio is second with seven, all of which have come since July 6.
Milestones and Miscellany
- Sporting KC defender Ike Opara is one shy of his 100th appearance for the club in all competitions.
Team stats (2017 regular season)
MLS rank in parenthesis (source: Opta)
|Category (per game)||Sporting KC||Houston|
|Goals scored||1.18 (18th)||1.68 (5th)|
|Goals conceded||0.85 (1st)||1.32 (6th)|
|Shots||15.1 (2nd)||13.8 (t-7th)|
|Shots on goal||5.0 (4th)||4.9 (t-7th)|
|Shooting accuracy||44.1 (15th)||46.9 (8th)|
|Passing accuracy||83.3 (1st)||75.9 (20th)|
|Possession||57.6 (2nd)||44.0 (21st)|
|Duels won||47.8 (12th)||46.2 (16th)|
|Tackles won||11.2 (22nd)||12.6 (t-16th)|
|Interceptions||11.6 (22nd)||12.5 (t-18th)|
|Fouls committed||11.0 (18th)||12.5 (13th)|
|Fouls suffered||12.1 (6th)||10.7 (18th)|
|Shots faced||10.0 (1st)||12.9 (14th)|
Recent #HOUvSKC meetings in all competitions
- Regular season record vs. Houston: 5-10-12
- Record vs. Houston in all competitions: 10-14-13
|07/21/2015||W 3-1||Children's Mercy Park||Open Cup quarterfinals||Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber and Krisztian Nemeth score|
|08/01/2015||T 1-1||Children's Mercy Park||Regular season||Dwyer scores early before Ricardo Clark levels late|
|09/23/2015||L 0-1||BBVA Compass Stadium||MLS||Will Bruin bags the winner in the 67th mintute|
|05/07/2016||L 0-2||BBVA Compass Stadium||MLS||Giles Barnes and Andrew Wenger score first-half goals|
|06/29/2016||L 1-3||BBVA Compass Stadium||Open Cup Round of 16||Alex scores and Mauro Manotas bags brace|
|09/09/2016||T 3-3||Children's Mercy Park||MLS||Dwyer, Roger Espinoza and Jacob Peterson score, but Alex and Manotas help Houston draw|
|06/28/2017||W 2-0||BBVA Compass Stadium||Open Cup Round of 16||Ike Opara and Gero score second-half goals|
|10/11/2017||L 1-2||BBVA Compass Stadium||MLS||Jimmy Medranda opens scoring, but Houston replies with own goal and Tomas Martinez strike|
|10/15/2017||T 0-0||Children's Mercy Park||MLS||Sporting KC racks up 27 shots, but Tyler Deric makes nine saves to help Houston salvage draw|