MLS Knockout Round: Houston Defends BBVA Compass Stadium
Houston Dynamo vs Sporting KC Picks
The final match of the MLS Knockout Round will be played in Houston as the Dynamo host Sporting Kansas City. Both teams have toiled hard to make it this far, but only one will live to fight another day. Below are the head to head lines, selected from the best online sportsbooks, followed by our fearless prediction and our match preview - make sure you take a look at this so you can make an informed decision on Thursday night's game.
The Houston Dynamo have been more or less unbeatable at home so far in 2017. Twelve wins and just one defeat from their seventeen matches sees them second only to Toronto FC in terms of home form. They were impressive in their recent match against Chicago, and also showed that they are more than a match for Sporting in their 2-1 victory over them just two weeks ago.
Kansas City will come into the match with the best away record in the league in terms of fewest goals conceded, however they have also only scored ten goals outside of Kansas all season and have failed to hit the back of the net in their two prior playoff matches in Houston.
Unless Kansas can take this one to a penalty shootout, the Dynamo should win this one, and they present great value at +110.
Pick: Houston Dynamo (+110) at Sports Interaction
Houston Dynamo vs Sporting Kansas City Preview
It's quite amazing how the regular season draw pans out sometimes. These two clubs have already come up against each other twice in the month of October, and will now fight it out for a Western Conference semi-final berth. Of course, these two matches will give us some sort of idea as to what we should expect on Thursday night in Houston, although on the other hand sudden-death football has a tendency of bringing out the best (and worst) of players and coaches.
Mind you, there is no shortage of reference points when analysing the playoff history between these two clubs. Houston eliminated Sporting from the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup race in the conference final and semi-final respectively, before Kansas got their revenge in 2013 by defeating the Dynamo en route to lifting the Cup in that season. This will be the first meeting between the clubs in the playoffs since that clash.
There is also plenty of history between the clubs from the regular MLS season. Between 2011 and 2013, Houston put together an incredible run of 36 games without defeat at home, including the entire 2012 season. This run was eventually halted by, you guessed it, Sporting Kansas City, who managed a 1-0 victory midway through the 2013 season thanks to a header by Aurelien Collin.
Houston were the overall winners across the games played between the sides in the last two weeks, which we will explore in more detail below, and the results help illustrate a broader point - recent form. The two teams could not be coming into this fixture with a more polarised run of results, and this could be a crucial factor in deciding the winner of their elimination match.
On one side you have the Houston Dynamo who finished their regular season with a run of six games without loss, including their emphatic 3-0 victory on Sunday against Eastern Conference third seed Chicago Fire, a team who also had plenty to play for considering they could have overtaken New York City in the standings. This result secured a home knockout fixture for the Dynamo, and we all know how important home ground advantage is in the MLS.
Meanwhile Sporting Kansas City ended their season with five consecutive matches without a win, surrendering their chance of a potential week off with a 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, and also a chance at hosting a knockout fixture when they fell on the final day to a Real Salt Lake side fighting to stay alive in the playoff race. The lack of killer instinct in some of these fixtures is what will worry Kansas fans the most.
Before we jump to conclusions about the potential result on Thursday, let's have a look at some of the key regular season statistics for each team and also their head to head record.
For a team who made the postseason in seven of their first eight attempts, a three year absence from the MLS Playoffs was a strange and unwelcome experience for Houston Dynamo fans. And although not one of their best regular seasons on record, the important thing is that they are here and have a golden opportunity at home against an out-of-form Sporting side.
We keep on expressing how important home advantage is in the MLS, and Houston's record at BBVA in 2017 is second only to Toronto FC. The Dynamo won twelve of their seventeen home fixtures in 2017, and were so close to equalling their 2012 undefeated home record - they lost just one game all season, and of all the difficult teams they picked up points against it had to be the lowly Colorado Rapids who managed to leave Houston with a win.
Houston scored 43 of their 57 goals at home this season and finished with a goal differential of +26. While that probably says more about their poor away form in comparison (nine losses, only one win and just 14 goals scored), you can't help but marvel at this impressive statistic. Plus, the Dynamo can worry about their abysmal away failings if and when they make it through to the next round of the playoffs.
Sporting Kansas City
Away form certainly will be a factor to consider if you're considering betting on Sporting, and their record outside of Kansas City is almost as bad as that of Houston. Just two road wins for the regular season, the last of which coming way back in June, and eight losses is not the type of form you would prefer to take into a road elimination match.
There is a silver lining though. Kansas City had easily the most miserly defensive record out of any team in the MLS in 2017, despite finishing as the eleventh-best team overall. They only conceded an average of around one goal per game away from home in the regular season; eighteen goals in total, which is also the best away defensive record in the league.
The problem is that Kansas also had a problem scoring goals in 2017.
Their total output of 40 goals scored was the fourth-lowest in the regular season, and away from home they only managed to score on ten occasions. Perhaps their best chance in this match is to come out looking for another 0-0 result (they managed five of these in 2017, including their most recent match against Houston), although against a team that averages more than two goals per game at home it will certainly be a tough ask.
Head to Head Record
Houston is unbeaten in the last eight matches against Sporting Kansas City.
Overall, Houston holds the upper hand with ten wins from 26 starts. Kansas have only won five clashes between the two sides. The two 2017 results were a 2-1 home win for Houston on October 11th and a 0-0 return clash in Kansas just four days later.
Sporting have played in playoff fixtures against Houston at the BBVA Compass Stadium on two prior occasions and failed to score a goal in both matches.
So considering the home side comes into this fixture in good form and with a win against their opponents in the last two weeks, is there likely to be any doubt over the result?
We don't think so. It will take a colossal effort for Sporting to overcome Houston here and we're certainly not betting against the Dynamo. What are your thoughts on the upcoming fixture? Be sure to share your thoughts by joining the conversation on Facebook. You can catch all the action from the BBVA Compass Stadium at 9:30pm EDT, Thursday October 26th.
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