Dynamo's different brand of ball to be tested by Sporting KC's experience

League: MLS

Posted on: 26 Nov, 2023 at 02:47 AM

Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When Sporting Kansas City visits the Houston Dynamo in Sunday's Western Conference semifinal, the visitors will represent the old guard clashing with an up-and-coming challenger.

Kansas City's Peter Vermes is the league's longest-tenured manager at 15 seasons. And he's guided Sporting to an MLS Cup, three U.S. Open Cups and now 11 postseason appearances over that span.

But earlier this season, it appeared his run might be near an end after SKC earned only three points from their first 10 matches.

However, boosted by the return to health and fitness of midfielder Gadi Kinda and striker Alan Pulido, Kansas City earned 1.71 points per game for their final 24 matches to climb into the eighth and final West seed, then swept regular season conference champions St. Louis City in Round One.

"I kept telling the guys: ‘Look, I'm the one that chose you guys,'" Vermes recalled this week to MLSsoccer.com. "‘I'm the one who picked you guys to come here. I believe in you guys. I know that we're good enough. We've just got to get healthy.' And so that's where I feel the most vindication and also the most pride, it's for the players because they found a way to believe and commit themselves."

Houston manager Ben Olsen also has more than a decade of MLS experience but is in his first year at the Dynamo.

Olsen's D.C. United teams were pragmatic and defense-oriented during an era when they were outspent by most opponents. With Houston, his squad has surprised outsiders not only in earning the fourth seed but playing a more attacking style.

They've reached the postseason for just the second time in seven seasons and also won the 2023 Open Cup in what Dynamo fans will hope is the start of a much more successful era. But Olsen is trying not to take any of 2023 for granted, including Hector Herrera's 17 assists -- good for 2nd in MLS -- or a team with 12 multiple-goal scorers.

"I've been around enough where these years and these teams don't necessarily happen all the time," Olsen told MLSsoccer.com this week. "So that's where I'm at right now. That and the fact that I want to hold another trophy. The players want to hold another trophy and I don't see why we can't."

--Field Level Media