MLS Closeup: Sporting KC makes quick turnaround for Houston rematch

Playing the same team twice won’t be a case of deja vu for Sporting Kansas City.

In lost in Houston, 2-1, Wednesday in a game postponed by Hurricane Harvey, and Sunday hosts the Dynamo with the dynamics dramatically different.

Veterans Graham Zusi and Matt Besler return from international duty, as do Houston’s Honduran internationals Romell Quito and Alberth Elis as well as USA defender DaMarcus Beasley.

All are expected to be available for the game Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park, where the teams last played in September of last year and battled to a 3-3 tie. The teams also played a 1-1 tie there in 2015, and of recent games that haven’t ended tied, Houston has won all three.

“Obviously, head-to-head they are better than us at the moment,” said Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes after Wednesday’s game.  “We have to figure something out and it has to do with our desire and intensity on the field.”

Two months ago, SKC looked a likely favorite to top the Western Conference, but in its last 10 games it is a very average 3-4-3.

It fell to Vancouver, 1-0, in its last home game and is dealing with the absence of keeper Tim Melia, the league leader in goals-allowed average (0.77) and second in shutouts (10). Melia suffered a strained hamstring in a 1-1 tie with Minnesota United Sept. 30 and sat out the game Wednesday.

Backup Andrew Dykstra manned the nets against Houston, which rallied after a Jimmy Medranda goal to get an equalizer by Tomas Martinez and grab the winner when Erik Palmer-Brown “cleared” a Martinez free kick into his own net.

Palmer-Brown got the start in place of Besler alongside Ike Opara, and Saad Abdul-Salaam took Zusi’s place at right back. Dykstra came up with a few good saves but didn't react well to Martinez's goal and stayed stuck to his line rather than collect the free kick that Palmer-Brown volleyed past him. 

“We come in the second half, I don’t think we put our foot on the gas pedal enough in the second half to go get a second goal, said Vermes, whose team outshot the Dynamo, 15-9. “They get the equalizer, the momentum shifts and they just had more hunger at the end to get the second goal.”

In a very crowded Western Conference SKC (48 points) is second, three points behind leader Vancouver and only two ahead of fifth-place Houston. It can clinch a playoff spot with a tie but needs maximum points to hold second place clear of Portland and Seattle, both of which have 47 points.

All teams in MLS have two more games to play. After its home finale against Houston, SKC ends the regular season a week from Sunday at Real Salt Lake, which is just a point below the playoff line. SKC is typical of many MLS teams this year in a vast disparity between its home (10-1-5) and road (2-7-7) records.

“We have two games to end the season, the regular season,” said midfielder Ille. “We are still not in the playoffs; the first objective is reach the playoffs in these two games. We have an opportunity at home where we know we are really strong."

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications