"Five Things" is a season-long series presented by the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.
Just three days removed from a wild 2-1 home win over Austin FC, Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1, 7 points) will continue their 2021 MLS campaign Wednesday by visiting rivals Houston Dynamo FC (1-1-2, 5 points) in a compelling Western Conference clash at BBVA Stadium.
The midweek battle is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, BallySports.com, the Bally Sports app, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM. Supporters can also access the Sporting KC app for additional in-game updates.
As Manager Peter Vermes’ men prepare for a challenging test away from home, we visit five major storylines surrounding the matchup.
1. Comeback Kids
Sunday’s victory over Austin didn’t come without drama. The upstart visitors led for most of the match, surging ahead in the seventh minute, but a raucous Children’s Mercy Park crowd ignited Sporting in the second half. Vermes’ side totaled 25 shot attempts on the night—two more than their first three games of the season combined—and were rewarded for their dominance when Ilie Sanchez headed home a Johnny Russell corner kick to level terms in the 82nd minute.
Buoyed by the equalizer, Sporting landed a game-winning haymaker with 90 minutes on the clock. Luis Martins’ cross was glanced across the face of goal by Khiry Shelton and nodded into the net by fellow substitute Gadi Kinda, capping a brilliant comeback and sealing all three points. Sunday marked the seventh time in club history that Sporting has won a regular season match when trailing after the 80th minute.
2. Rampant Russell
Sporting’s newly appointed captain didn’t score on Sunday, but he was at the heart of a ceaselessly dangerous attack. Russell, making his 100th competitive appearance for the club, finished the match with eight chances created—the most by a Kansas City player since Opta began tracking the statistic in 2010. The Scottish winger also assisted Ilie’s goal, becoming just the second MLS player since the start of 2020 to record an assist and eight chance creations in a game.
Russell was rewarded for his rampant performance on Monday, earning a spot on MLSsoccer.com’s Team of the Week.
3. Familiar Foes
Sporting and Houston have forged a fierce rivalry over the last decade, meeting in four editions of the MLS Cup Playoffs and five Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups in addition to squaring off frequently in the regular season. With 36 meetings over the last 10 seasons in all competitions, the Dynamo have been Sporting’s most frequent opponent since 2011.
The sides met four times during the shortened 2020 regular season, taking two wins apiece. Sporting prevailed 4-0 at home on March 7 and 2-1 away on Oct. 3. Those results bookended a pair of Dynamo wins, by a 5-2 scoreline on Aug. 25 and a 2-1 result on Sept. 5. Sporting striker Alan Pulido made a decisive mark in the series, tallying a goal and an assist in the 4-0 triumph and bagging both goals in Sporting’s 2-1 road win last October at BBVA Stadium.
4. Pasher on Point
Canadian winger Tyler Pasher enjoyed a breakout season for the Swope Park Rangers in 2016, using the USL Championship platform as a springboard to a first-team contract with Sporting Kansas City in 2017. He then moved on to Indy Eleven, where he had a prolific three-year spell in the second division, before landing another MLS contract with Houston heading into 2021.
Pasher has made the most of his opportunities thus far under Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos, tallying a goal and an assist while creating a team-best seven chances in three games. The 27-year-old has arguably been Houston’s best player thus far, although it remains to be seen what role he will play on Wednesday. Pasher missed Saturday’s 1-1 draw at FC Dallas with a hip ailment and is listed as questionable on Houston’s injury report.
5. Road Warriors
Since the start of 2020, Sporting’s 6-3-2 regular season road record is tied for the best in MLS. That mark includes a season-opening 2-1 triumph at the New York Red Bulls. Houston, meanwhile, have been pedestrian and BBVA Stadium during that same time period, going 4-3-5 on home turf. The Dynamo managed just three wins from 10 home fixtures in 2020, however their fortunes have improved in the early stages of this year with a 2-1 win over San Jose on April 16 and a 1-1 stalemate with LAFC on May 1.