Sporting, Houston renew playoff rivalry

4:07 PM, Nov 8, 2013   |    comments
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Houston, TX ( - Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo will meet in the playoffs for the third consecutive season as the two clubs open up their Eastern Conference finals series at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday.

The Dynamo have gotten the better of Kansas City the past two years, edging the club 2-0 in the 2011 East finals before ousting Sporting, 2-1 on aggregate, in the 2012 Eastern Conference semis.

And if Houston's come-from-behind defeat of Red Bull New York on Wednesday - which culminated with a winning goal from Omar Cummings in extra time - indicates anything, it's that the Dynamo cannot be overlooked in the postseason.

Dominic Kinnear's side, which is seeking to return to MLS Cup for the third consecutive year, looked dead to rights in its second leg encounter with the Red Bulls after Tally Hall's botched save gifted Bradley Wright-Phillips the go-ahead goal on aggregate.

But Hall made amends for his gaffe by finishing the contest mistake-free as the Dynamo went on to grab the two goals they needed to defy the odds and advance to their sixth Conference finals in their eight-year existence.

"It's a sinking feeling, but I say it all the time that eventually as a goalkeeper you're going to look like an idiot," Hall told reporters. "You're just going to look stupid. People are going to look at it on TV and say, 'What was he doing? What was he thinking?'

"You've just got to know that if it happens early or late, it doesn't matter. You've got to finish the game."

Sporting, by comparison, will be looking to turn its typical regular season dominance into playoff success. The club has not finished the regular season below third place in the Eastern Conference since 2009, but it has not managed to advance to MLS Cup since 2004.

Kansas City's route to the Conference finals this term has been anything but smooth. After suffering a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution in the opening leg of their Eastern Conference semifinals, the club battled back to get a 2-1 victory during regulation of the return match before clinching the aggregate win behind Claudio Bieler's goal in extra time.

It was Bieler's first goal in the run of play since July, and his return to the scoresheet was a great sight for Sporting head coach Peter Vermes.

"Claudio and I had a talk here last week and I said to him that there's more soccer to play here," said Vermes. "You don't understand yet what the playoff environment is like, but the opportunities are going to come and you're going to put one away for us or maybe two and they're going to be big goals. Him going on and finding his right place on the field during a couple of those situation were huge for us.

"He is what he is: a goal scorer. And it's great to see him get confidence on that goal because we need him down the stretch here."

The Sports Network

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