Sporting Kansas City-Dynamo Preview
The Houston Dynamo didn't defeat Sporting Kansas City this season, but they're confident heading into the opening leg of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Dynamo are on a similar path to the MLS Cup to last season when they knocked out a favored Sporting Kansas City team in the postseason, and these teams begin this two-legged series Saturday in Houston.
Houston advanced from the wild-card round last season to reach a second straight MLS Cup, eliminating Sporting Kansas City 2-1 on aggregate in the East semifinals.
The Dynamo beat Montreal in the wild-card game this season, then eliminated top-seeded New York 4-3 on aggregate after a dramatic 2-1 road victory Wednesday on substitute Omar Cummings' goal in the 104th minute.
"The playoffs are different, get rid of the regular season - that's over with," Cummings said. "It's playoff time; let's go."
Now Houston will host a Sporting Kansas City team it lost to once and drew on two other 2013 occasions. The Dynamo have captured five playoff series and two wild-card games over the last three postseasons while Kansas City has won two series in the same span.
"We try not to think too much about it, we just try to win games and move on to the next round," Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said.
Sporting Kansas City also won in dramatic fashion Wednesday. Substitute Claudio Bieler's 113th-minute goal was the difference in a 3-1 win that gave KC a 4-3 aggregate victory.
The club was 11 minutes from elimination before Seth Sinovic scored in the 79th minute.
''I think this game shows the character that our team has,'' he said.
The familiarity with these teams figures to make this a hotly contested series with the return leg set for Sept. 23 due to the international break.
"Here we are again," Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said. "They're a very good team. They always turn it on at the end of the season.
"One of the difficulties that they provide, especially late in the season here, is that we have a very short turnaround here and we're going into some different weather. But we've done well against them over the course of this year for the most part and it's going to be a great matchup because it always is. They're a great team."
Houston will be without the suspended Corey Ashe, with Mike Chabala or Warren Creavalle the likely possibilities to take his place on the back line.
The Dynamo are 9-1-1 all-time at home in the postseason, while Sporting Kansas City are 2-12-3 on the road in the playoffs.
"It's just amazing how we meet each other all the time," Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. "There are going to be some very exciting games. You know it's a quick turnaround so we've got to prepare ourselves for that game."