The playoff push in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference reaches a fever pitch Wednesday when second-place Sporting Kansas City (12-7-12, 48 points) visits fifth-place Houston Dynamo (11-10-10, 43 points) in a pivotal showdown at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The regional rivalry’s newest chapter is slated for 7 p.m., with FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO broadcasting three hours of live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. Local radio broadcasts will air live on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), and the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide live updates.
A win or a draw against Houston would see Sporting KC clinch a club-record seventh straight appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men sit just three points behind first-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC with a game in hand, knowing a victory would pull them level at the top of the West.
Houston, meanwhile, is part of a wild logjam in which fifth place and eighth place are separated by a single point.
The Dynamo and FC Dallas are tied on 43 points, currently occupying the final two playoff spots in the conference, while Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes lurk closely behind.
Another match rife with postseason implications comes quickly for Sporting KC, who settled for a 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC on Saturday night.
Forward Diego Rubio fired the visitors ahead in first-half stoppage time, his sixth MLS goal in nine starts since July 1, but Brent Kallman’s 84th-minute header denied Sporting KC what would have been a playoff-clinching victory.
Led by first-year head coach Wilmer Cabrera, Houston approaches the midweek matchup on 10 days’ rest, having earned a 2-1 home win over Minnesota on Sept. 30.
Dynamic forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto scored for the hosts, but both players will miss Wednesday’s contest due to national team commitments with Honduras. The result continued what has been a phenomenal home campaign for the Dynamo, who boast a 10-1-4 MLS record at BBVA Compass Stadium with a conference-best 2.53 goals per game and plus-22 goal differential.
Although Elis and Quioto will be unavailable, leading scorer Erick “Cubo Torres” and primary playmaker Alex will be at Cabrera’s disposal. Torres has tallied 14 goals this season, while Brazilian midfielder Alex tops the club charts with 10 assists and 51 chances created.
Forward Mauro Manotas has also provided a dangerous attacking punch throughout the year, notching nine goals and five assists. On the opposite side of the field, defensive lynchpin Adolfo Machado has played every minute of all 31 MLS matches in 2017.
If any team is capable of stifling Houston’s potent home form, it just might be Sporting KC. Vermes’ side has conceded just 25 goals in 31 games – 10 fewer than any other MLS team – and has proven tough to beat on their travels with six away losses, the fewest in the West.
An important test awaits for either 22-year-old Adrian Zendejas or 31-year-old Andrew Dykstra, as Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia is set to miss two to four weeks after straining his hamstring versus Minnesota.
Melia has started all 36 matches for Sporting Kansas City this year, including five in the club’s run to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. His 0.78 goals against average in MLS is the lowest mark in league history among goalkeepers with at least 30 appearances in a single season.
In addition, Sporting KC will remain without U.S. international trio Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi as the United States concludes World Cup Qualifying on Tuesday night at Trinidad and Tobago.
Forward Soony Saad will also be unavailable while representing Lebanon in 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying.
The sides most recently met in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on June 28, as Ike Opara and Gerso scored second-half goals to give Sporting KC a 2-0 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium and snap a three-game losing streak in Houston across all competitions.
Sporting KC is winless in its last six regular season meetings against the Dynamo, going 0-3-3 ever since emerging 2-0 winners at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 6, 2014.
– Story from Sporting KC