Talk about a cautious, cautious approach to the first leg of the 2013 MLS Eastern Conference Final. Both Dominic Kinnear’s Houston Dynamo and Peter Vermes’s Sporting Kansas City played to a scoreless draw at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex. The tie has been reduced to a one-off match at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. on Nov. 23.
Here are six things we learned from this first leg between the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City.
1. Kofi Sarkodie was the would-be hero
This should have been a 1-0 victory for Houston. But in the 17th minute, a goal for Kofi Sarkodie was called back due to offsides.
“That’s a close one, it’s really, really close,” said Kinnear to MLSSoccer.com’s Darrell Lovell. “In fast play the referee sees it one way, could he be onside, could he be off it’s a bit of a coin flip. That’s the way it goes”.
“When I made the run I didn’t think it was off,” Sarkodie said. “That could’ve been the difference. The game opens up and they have to come at us and then that gives us opportunities to get another goal.”
2. As expected by Houston, a dogfight in Houston
The Dynamo were expecting Sporting Kansas City to deliver an attacking game, and they did. Ricardo Clark and Will Bruin were lost to injury despite the Dynamo battling Sporting well to earn the draw.
“We knew it was going to be an ugly game, and it was,” Boswell said to Lovell. “They are such a good possession team and we kind of went in and bullied them around and now they’ve just decided to meet us head on and just say ‘hey, we’re going to kick you and screw the possession.’ You’ve just got to meet them head on.”
“It’s tough especially when the referees letting a lot of it go,” said battle-hardened forward Cam Weaver. “Guys take shots at other guys. It felt like I was battling three guys at any one time. That’s the game we were forced into, and we just had to adjust.”
3. Sporting elected to go on the defensive on their own terms
As for Sporting Kansas City, they decided that the first leg was a lost cause and they chose to go on the defensive late. By the end of the match, Kansas City had C.J. Sapong and Dom Dwyer up top, but he also brought in Ike Opare as a safety net.
“It’s a combination of things,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “They were just pumping balls forward, and we wanted to make sure that we dealt with the aerial aspect of the game. The other is that [Opara] can be very dominant on set pieces, so in that regard it was important to have him.”
4. Believe it or not, advantage Sporting Kansas City
Home field advantage now goes to Sporting Kansas City, after their goalless draw with Houston. For the most part, the team hosting the second leg has gotten the job done. Assuming this trend continues, you can pencil Sporting returning to the CONCACAF Champions League next year, at the bare minimum.
“It was a grind out there,” Sporting defender Matt Besler told MLSSoccer.com’s Jeremy Rakes. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew both teams were fatigued coming into this game. Because of that, it wasn’t the prettiest of soccer games, but at this time of year, that doesn’t matter to us.
“The reason the higher seed gets the second leg at home is for situations like this. The away team in the first leg can get a result like that, and now, we can go and play in front of our fans for the last 90 minutes and try to get the win.”
5. A good night for the goalkeepers
This was a night for solid defending, and solid goalkeeping. Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall made two saves, while Sporting netminder Jimmy Nielsen made three saves. You can expect both keepers to come up in the clutch on Nov. 23.
6. Even stats also tell the story
If you take a look at the match statistics, you can tell that this was indeed an even contest. Sporting dominated the attempts on goal and duels won, while Houston piled up the crosses and possession.
|Houston Dynamo||Sporting Kansas City|
|10||Attempts on Goal||15|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|3||Shots off Target||7|
|11||Open Play Crosses||7|
|0||First Yellow Cards||0|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|47%||Duels Won %||52%|
|64%||Passing Accuracy %||62%|