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Houston v Sporting KC (1-1) – Dynamo Lose their Heads and Two Points at the Death

Houston’s Strategy     Dominic Kinnear went away from his preferred 4-4-2 and set his side in a 4-5-1. Will Bruin was left on the bench and Brian Ching started alone up top. Brad Davis was used as a deep lying creative midfield ...

Houston’s Strategy
     Dominic Kinnear went away from his preferred 4-4-2 and set his side in a 4-5-1. Will Bruin was left on the bench and Brian Ching started alone up top. Brad Davis was used as a deep lying creative midfield player. Danny Cruz was on the right wing and the most supportive attacking player for Ching.
Sporting’s Strategy
     The visiting side from Kansas City set out in their usual 4-3-3/4-2-3-1. Diop played as a holding midfield player. Espinoza was the box to box midfielder and Zusi was the playmaker in the middle. Omar Bravo played off to the left as a winger or second striker. CJ Sapong was the central striker and Kei Kamara tried to find space on the right wing.
Houston Lead in Strange First Half
     The first good chance in the match led to the opening goal. Brian Ching was fouled outside the area to the right. Brad Davis took the free kick with his left foot and bent it over the wall into the corner. The free kick did not have much pace and the “White Puma” Nielsen was only able to come across late but failed to keep it out of the net before smashing into the post.
     The remainder of the first half was quite strange. By about the 40th minute I said to myself, “how have 40 minutes passed and I have no idea what is unfolding in this match.” Houston were very content to sit back and get to the locker room with the lead. The Dynamo were only able to pass the ball around the defense and struggled to even approach the Sporting KC area.
     Kansas City, on the other hand, used a different strategy. The back four was too committed on sending in long balls towards CJ Sapong. The young and in form striker was not able to win these passes. When they kept the ball on the ground, KC found space, especially through Myers overlapping past Kamara on the right side. Also, Espinoza and Zusi were able to find space between the midfield and defense of Houston, but lacked the final ball to create chances.
Sporting Dominates with Numerical Advantage
     At halftime, Bobby Boswell was brought on for Jermaine Taylor for Houston in a direct center back replacement.
     Just six minutes after the break, the Dynamo found themselves down to ten men. Collin Clark lost out on the ball on the left sideline. He looked frustrated and responded with a lunging off the ground slide tackle into Aurelien Collin. Refere Kevin Stott immediately reached into his breast pocket and sent off Clark.
     With ten men, Houston went to a 4-4-1, relying on Brian Ching to be the pressure release point up top to try and hold up the ball for the home side. When the Dynamo had the opportunity to get forward, they tried to get the ball wide and cross it in for Ching.
     Holding on to the lead with ten was proving difficult and Brian Ching made it more so in the 69th minute. Ching kicked out at Collin after he had cleared the ball. Once again Referee Kevin Stott sent off a Dynamo player, reducing them to nine men. Seeing the replay, the straight red was justified as the kick by Ching was dirty and unnecessary.  
     Playing against nine men, Kansas City resorted to packing the box and swinging in crosses. This seemed like the only way through the Dynamo defense. Houston committed all eight outfield players towards defending and bunkered down deep into their own half. Even the stats backed up Sporting KC’s dominance; they played in 37 crosses and took 25 shots during the ninety minutes.
     All the attacking initiative paid off for Kansas City in the 90th minute. Collin received the ball 25 yards out from Espinoza. His left footed shot was deflected and went in past Hall. It may be a bit harsh to say that Hall could have done better since he had such a great match.
Conclusion
     Credit KC for their persistence in seeking a goal and probably deserved all three points.
     However, it would be unfair to criticize Houston for playing a defensive second half. The players did not get discouraged after going two men down. They fought hard and nearly kept a clean sheet, only a lucky long range shot beating Hall.
     Each manager would have left the match feeling disappointment with only a point. Dominic Kinnear will be angry at Clark and Ching for getting sent off with a lead at home. On the other side, Peter Vermes will feel that his side could have scored two and stolen a road win after having a numerical advantage and creating plenty of chances in the second half.
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