Preview: Sporting begins long road swing Saturday at Houston Dynamo

Sporting Kansas City at Houston Dynamo
Saturday, June 1, 2019 | 7:30 p.m. CT
BBVA Compass Stadium | Houston, Texas
2019 MLS Regular Season | Match 14 of 34

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City
English TV | FOX Sports Midwest Plus
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM
Mobile | Sporting KC App, FOX Sports GO

Sporting KC App | By The Numbers | Five Things to Know | Video
Match Notes | Media Guide | MatchCenter | FOX Sports GO Stream

A pair of familiar foes will write the newest chapter of their rivalry on Saturday when Sporting Kansas City (3-5-5, 14 points) ventures south to face the Houston Dynamo (7-3-2, 23 points) at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Western Conference battle will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO beginning at 7 p.m. CT. Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will air live radio broadcasts, while the Sporting KC App will provide additional in-game updates and exclusive offers.

With Sporting set to embark on a four-game MLS road swing, supporters across the Kansas City region are invited to #HOUvSKC watch parties on Saturday at any of the club's official pub partners. Among them is No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, serving as the flagship hub for Sporting in the heart of downtown. From 7 p.m. CT until the final whistle, No Other Pub will offer $4 Bud Light drafts, $5 Coronas, $6 select vodka cocktails and an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic drafts.

The start of June marks the end of a wild week for Sporting, who will play their third game in seven days after experiencing a full spectrum of emotions in two recent contests at Children’s Mercy Park. Johnny Russell bagged a sensational hat-trick in a riveting 3-2 victory over Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, but the LA Galaxy curbed Sporting’s momentum with a 2-0 triumph on Wednesday for their first win in Kansas City since 2007.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men stare down the gauntlet of four straight MLS away matches throughout June, not to mention a U.S. Open Cup visit to Minnesota United FC on June 12. Occupying 11th place in the standings and four points below the seventh and final playoff spot, Sporting are the only Western Conference side without a road win this season and will be eager to exorcise their travel struggles in the days and weeks head.

After winning the Open Cup but missing the playoffs in 2018, head coach Wilmer Cabrera has Houston looking like a legitimate postseason contender. The Dynamo have 23 points on the season, occupying fourth place in the West, and boast an unbeaten 6-0-2 record at home. Striker Mauro Manotas (six goals, four assists) and winger Alberth Elis (four goals, six assists) have each accounted for exactly half of Houston’s 20 goals this year. Playmaker Memo Rodriguez, meanwhile, is piecing together his best season as a pro with five goals and two assists.

Saturday’s task may be daunting, but Sporting will be buoyed by the fact that they swept the 2018 regular season series against Houston. Following an epic 3-2 home victory in which the hosts erased a 2-0 halftime deficit, Sporting went into BBVA Compass Stadium and grinded out a 1-0 win last August behind a first career assist from 16-year-old Gianluca Busio. The Dynamo did prevail in last year’s Open Cup quarterfinals, however, and Manotas tallied four goals in his three appearances versus Sporting in 2018.

Few MLS teams share a more intriguing head-to-head history this decade than Sporting and Houston. Since 2011, the clubs have met 30 times in all competitions—securing 10 wins and 10 draws apiece—and squared off in a slew of high-stakes battles. That includes four editions of the MLS Cup Playoffs (2011-2013, 2017) and each of the last four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups dating back to 2015. Sporting knocked off Houston en route to the 2013 MLS Cup and Open Cup titles in 2015 and 2017, while the Dynamo claimed a win over Vermes’ men on their way to lifting the 2018 Open Cup.

Sporting’s team selection on Saturday will be complicated by two factors: fixture congestion and player availability. Playing its third game in a week, the club also has seven players listed on the injury report. Long-term absentees Roger Espinoza (knee), Gerso Fernandes (wrist), Erik Hurtado (knee), Jaylin Lindsey (knee), and Rodney Wallace (hip) remain out, while Botond Barath and Johnny Russell are deemed questionable after picking up knocks on Wednesday.

On the bright side, a trio of Sporting defenders are off the injury report and figure to be available on Saturday. Captain Matt Besler, fellow center back Andreu Fontas and influential right back Graham Zusi have all missed time in recent weeks, but all three featured Wednesday against LA. Forward Daniel Salloi is also back in the mix, having missed a fortnight of action earlier this month with a groin issue.