[MLS PLAYOFFS: Houston-Sporting KC] The busy MLS playoff calendar caught up with the Eastern Conference finalists as the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City played to a 0-0 tie in the first leg Saturday in Houston. It was the first scoreless draw in 22 playoff games dating back to the first leg of the 2012 conference semifinals.
Houston was playing its fourth playoff game in 11 days and made its first lineup changes of the playoffs as Mike Chabala replaced suspended Corey Ashe at left back and Omar Cummings, the hero of
the New York series, started for Giles Barnes, but midfield dynamo Ricardo Clark
went off with a suspected MCL sprain midway through the first half, forcing the Dynamo to switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3.
“We knew it was
going to be an ugly game and it was,” Houston defender Bobby Boswell said. “But I thought we fought hard, there was no dropoff, we had guys in and
out and I think everyone played well."
Houston's best chance came in the first half when Kofi Sarkodie
broke free on a well-constructed play and scored but was whistled for offside -- a very close call. At the other end, he blocked a shot by former Akron Zip teammate Teal Bunbury. Honduran Oscar Boniek Garcia hit a free kick from 30 yards that Jimmy Nielsen knocked away. Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes again juggled his frontline, but Jacob Peterson missed badly on Sporting KC's best chance.
The second half featured numerous stoppages, adding
seven minutes to the half, but neither team could score. Claudio Bieler, SKC's conference semifinal hero, was one of four forwards on Vermes' bench but he never
got in the game.
Last year, Houston went back to Sporting Park with a 2-0 lead and held on for a 2-1 aggregate win. This year, the Dynamo must get a result to stay alive, but the circumstances will be different. The teams will now have two weeks to rest until the second leg on Nov. 23 in Kansas
Nov. 9 in Houston
Houston 0 Sporting KC 0.
Houston -- Hall, Sarkodie, Brunner, Boswell,
Ashe, Garcia, Creavalle. Clark (Driver 26), Davis, Bruin (Weaver 46), Cummings (Barnes 78).
Sporting KC -- Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic,
Nagamura, Rosell, Feilhaber (Sapong 74; Dwyer 76), Zusi, Bunbury, Peterson (Opara 84).
Yellow Cards: none.
Referee: Kevin Stott.