It wasn't pretty at all today down in Houston as Sporting KC started their playoff run against the Houston Dynamo. Once again Dominic Kinnear created a fantastic game plan to negate Kansas City's high pressure and to throw it right back at them. The Dynamo were helped by the fact that Sporting turned in probably their worst performance of the season at the same time as no one really played well and Sporting have themselves in a big hole heading into the second leg on Wednesday.
The early going of the game was back and forth as both teams really struggled to get started. Sporting though looked shaky, struggling to keep the ball, giving the ball away easily. In the 16th minute, the Dynamo won a corner. KC struggled dealing with it, but finally cleared it. The Dynamo came right back though. Again KC cleared it with a header, the ball fell to another Dynamo player who headed it to Adam Moffat. Moffat took a touch to get away from his defender and fired a shot from about 25 yards out. The rocket sailed past Jimmy Nielsen and into the net to get the Dynamo the lead in the 18th. KC tried to get back into the game but really were unable to really test Tally Hall. The only really dangerous chance in the first half for KC was when CJ Sapong raced down a loose ball in the corner. Sapong forced Hall into a save at the near post from nearly no angle. The Dynamo though were the ones that always looked the more likely for a second in the first half. Will Bruin should have made it 2 in the 38th after Oscar Boniek Garcia beat Seth Sinovic down the wing and played a low cross into the middle. Bruin though muffed on the attempt though.
KC came out in the second half looking to push the game more and got more possession finally. Still the final ball wasn't there for KC. Graham Zusi had an opportunity on a quick break, but didn't take the opportunity, and instead tried cutting back to his right allowing the Dynamo defense to recover. Their best chance of the game came in the 71st minute when Jacob Peterson got open on the wing and rolled the ball back to Zusi who was right around the penalty spot. Zusi tried to slide the ball into the far corner but missed the post, pushing the ball wide. Shortly after that miss, the Dynamo made KC pay. Calen Carr collected the ball about 35 yards from goal. He cut past Aurelien Collin and raced down the wing. Carr slid the ball into the middle for Bruin who made no mistake firing the ball past Nielsen and into the net as the KC defense was all out of sorts. From there it was just a matter of killing out the clock, but the Dynamo continued their high pressure and looked like they could grab a third. They utilized the high pressure on KC that had been the trademark of KC's team for the past two years. KC's defenders never looked comfortable with the ball at their feet with the Dynamo pressuring that high on KC.
KC now heads home for the game on Wednesday against the Dynamo needing to win by 2 clear goals to force extra time (there is no away goal rule in the playoffs, so a 3-1 win is just as good as a 2-0 win), or win by 3 clear goals to win the series straight up. It can be done, KC beat the Dynamo 3-0 last year in the regular season, but Kinnear will have his team sitting back further this time to avoid that situation. Three times this season in league play KC has scored 3 times. They scored 3 times in two of their US Open Cup games as well, so it can be done. But it certainly won't be easy. If you need a pick me up, just imagine the series as being half time of this game and the second half is to come.
WIZARDS Man of the Match - Jimmy Nielsen - Nothing that Nielsen could have done on either of the two goals, but Nielsen's being named man of the match has more to do with the lack of any of the field players having a good game. Collin was about the closest, but his play on the Dynamo's second goal knocks him out of that spot.
Player Ratings - Nielsen 5, Myers 3, Collin 4, Besler 4, Sinovic 3, Cesar 3, Espinoza 3, Zusi 3, Kamara 3, Sapong 2, Peterson 4. Subs Joseph 3, Dwyer 3, Convey NR.