KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 7: Macoumba Kandji #9 of the Houston Dynamo heads the ball away from Paulo Nagamura #6 of the Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park on July 7, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Sporting KC hopes to keep their solid July going in a new park that hasn't ever seen the home Dynamo lose. While Roger Espinoza is away in London, Sporting KC hopes their new-found depth can get them through the next couple of fixtures.
The games are coming faster and faster these days it seems. Today's is the third game in eight days and is a showcase of the stadium that supplanted Livestrong Sporting Park as MLS's newest this season. Sporting Kansas City is on a roll, not only winning matches in cup play and league play but doing it with interchangeable parts. Depth was something that the fans worried about and lately those fears have turned into an obvious strength. Houston is another version of 2011 Kansas City. They are undefeated in their new stadium after digging a slight hole on the road to open the season. They have neither been as strong as Sporting KC was after June last year, nor were they quite as wretched to open the season. In other words, they are the Houston Dynamo, seemingly the most stable and boring franchise in MLS.
Covering Brad Davis
This was the most effective portion of the "reined in" display when these two met earlier this month. Paulo Nagamura did an effective job shutting down Houston's attack where it starts, and no team in MLS relies more on its central creator than Houston and Brad Davis. (Of course, in last year's semifinal, he was injured which most times would kill a team.) Will Bruin has finally given the Dynamo a striker not named Brian Ching, and that is a development that has been six years coming in Houston. Sporting's defense has been in form lately (at least on the scoreboard) and cutting off the supply lines to Bruin should be enough to at least walk out of Houston with a point.
Roger Espinoza is off to London to play for Honduras, and recent hero Jacob Peterson picked up an ankle injury in the last match. So expect a back four that remains the same, but expect the rest of the lineup to change. Graham Zusi will be back in the starting eleven and joined by Kei Kamara, but outside that it is up in the air. We haven't seen Julio Cesar for a while, so until that is answered expect more Paulo Nagamura. Whether the other spot is occupied, by Cesar, Michael Thomas, or Peterson Joseph is the mystery. All of their front line options are available with the slight knock on Peterson, so they could put anyone in the starting lineup. My guess would be CJ Sapong and Bobby Convey, but the other two options (Peterson and Teal Bunbury) will probably play as well.
Defense Needs To Step Up
For all of the chatter about the defense being back to early season form, they aren't quite there. There were several chances last week, that Jimmy Nielsen stoned or the bar was kind enough to deny. In the early season, teams weren't even getting chances. Again without their first choice midfield, thye may cede more possession than usual, but they proved last week they can be equally or even more dangerous on the counter attack. The greater fear is that the defense allows too many chances and Houston is better equipped to finish them than Columbus was.
Julio Cesar Santos - Paulo Nagamura
Kei Kamara - Bobby Convey
Sporting KC 2 - Houston 1
No road team has won at BBVA Compass Stadium yet, but Sporting KC is playing better than any team outside the Bay Area. The script will follow the Columbus game, but Houston will score an equalizer in between the two Sporting goals. It's best to remember that a draw here is not a bad result, so if you see a Sporting KC team trying to play for a tie, don't kill the messenger.