Monday, November 11, 2013

Sporting Kansas City ties first playoff game against Houston, has long layoff until next game

Posted by on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM

click to enlarge MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
  • Major League Soccer
Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo slugged out a 0-0 draw in an unremarkable Saturday-afternoon match to reach the halfway point of their two-game playoff series.

The torrid pace of the game was expected; both teams have played a glut of playoff games over the last week, including both slogging out double-overtime games last Wednesday.

The scoreless result was probably a good outcome for Sporting Kansas City. The two-game playoff series is decided on aggregate goals, which means you add up the scores of both games and whichever team comes out ahead moves on to the Major League Soccer Championship. The next playoff game will be a winner-takes-all scenario with Sporting Kansas City having the home-field advantage.

Of course, it doesn't take a long memory to recall that Houston, a sullen regular season squad that becomes irascible in the postseason, came to Kansas City two years ago in a similar winner-takes-all setup and flogged Sporting Kansas City 2-0 to advance to the MLS Championship that year. The team beat Sporting Kansas City again last year in the playoffs, too.

While soccer fans have enjoyed a string of games over the last week, they'll have to be patient for Sporting Kansas City's next game on November 23. The long gap between games is because of a bunch of international games on the schedule for this week and next. The United States, for example, has exhibition matches against Scotland and Austria over the next two weeks. MLS didn't want to affect remaining playoff teams by having international coaches call on their key players while playoff games were going on.

The November 23 game at Sporting Park will be a tense one. Will Sporting Kansas City launch into its opponent with a heady attack like it did against New England last Wednesday? Will Houston rely on its notoriously stingy defense and wait for Sporting Kansas City to goof up to capitalize on a goal on the counterattack?

Whichever team wins that day will advance to the MLS Championship. In Sporting Kansas City's case, the team would host the finale at Sporting Park because it has the best regular season record of any of the remaining teams.

On the other side of the playoff bracket, Real Salt Lake holds a 4-2 advantage from the first game of its two-game playoff when it handed the Portland Timbers a beating in Salt Lake City Sunday night. The series goes back to Portland in nearly two weeks when the Timbers would have to win by three goals to advance.

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