Sporting KC eyes long-awaited home win against pesky Houston Dynamo

The adage of throwing out the records when two teams meet certainly is true as Sporting Kansas City hosts the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

Sporting KC (8-2-5, 29 points) sits on top of the Western Conference table (tied with FC Dallas), but Houston has been a thorn in the flesh for Sporting KC for the past seven seasons.

The Dynamo (6-5-3, 21 points) have not lost in Kansas City since September 2011. They are 1-0-6 in MLS regular-season matches during that span and 4-0-4 in all regular-season matches since June 2014.

Sporting KC has done much better outside of the MLS regular season. Since 2011, the sides are even at 9-9-9.

Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes knows that his club will have its hands full.

“They’ve always been a very explosive team,” Vermes said. “They have some very dangerous players going forward. It’s a big challenge for us and we have to make sure that we’re really smart.”

This year’s Sporting KC squad is much different than in recent years. The defense is still stout, though not quite at the level of last year when they led MLS in goals allowed with 29, eight fewer than the next-best club.

They’ve allowed an MLS-best 14 goals in their 15 games, tied with FC Dallas, who has allowed the same number in one fewer game.

But the Sporting KC offense is much stronger.

The offense scored 29 goals, which is sixth-best in MLS and third-best in the Western Conference. Their goal differential of plus-14 is tied with Atlanta FC and the New York Red Bulls for best in the league.

Gerso Fernandes led SKC with eight goals last season. This year, three players have at least four goals and Fernandes is not among them. Johnny Russell and Felipe Gutierrez have five, and Gutierrez has only played six games. He’s nearing the time to return after having successful sports hernia surgery at the end of April. Daniel Salloi has been hot lately, and he has four goals.

Houston sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, but a win in Kansas City could lift the Dynamo all the way to a tie for third place, pending other MLS action.

Houston is second in MLS in shots on goal per game (6.6) and fourth in total shot attempts per game (15.5) while also ranking second in fewest shots allowed per game (9.9). The Dynamo rank second in MLS in big chances created (36). Unfortunately, they also rank second in big chances missed (28).

Houston has played well at home (5-2-0) but has struggled away from BBVA Compass Stadium (1-3-3). Maybe the “friendly confines” of Children’s Mercy Park will help change that pattern.

Houston is led by forward Alberth Elis with eight goals. He also has contributed five assists, one behind team leader Romell Quioto. The 13 goals combined is tied for third best in MLS.

Elis is at the point of the Houston attack, and his 56 shots, 18 more than any other Houston player shows this. His 30 shots on goal are the best in MLS and exactly double the total of forward Mauro Manotas, who is second on the team.

Houston defender Adolfo Machado is the only player on either side participating in the World Cup. Machado is representing Panama.