Connect with us

Sporting KC

Prepping for the Houston Dynamo with Bayou City Soccer



Sporting Kansas City travels south to face the Houston Dynamo in a very important Western Conference clash on Saturday night. With Sporting KC sitting one point out of the playoffs and Houston trying to bounce back from a two-game losing streak, both teams will be going all out to earn the full three points as we approach the final stretch of the 2023 MLS regular season.

We caught up with Dustyn Richardson from our friends at Bayou City Soccer to chat about the game and what SKC fans can expect. Check out their answers to our questions, and then read what we sent their way.

KCSJ: Houston have been absolutely dominant at home this year at 7-1-1 while being pretty dreadful on the road at 1-8-2. What is the biggest reason for this disparity, and what is it about Shell Energy Stadium that has made it such a fortress?

BCS: We’ve hit the peak of summer in Houston which makes Shell Energy Stadium a literal inferno. The heat and humidity is jarring for away teams to have to come and play in. The Dynamo are a fortress defensively, basically daring teams to have the ball and attack them, running their legs into the ground. For whatever reason, the Dynamo have been dreadful on the road for many years now. Different coaches and different players haven’t seemed to turn it around just yet. If Houston is going to get back to the playoffs, they are going to have to basically be perfect at home, because of their continued road struggles.


KCSJ: It’s Ben Olsen’s first year as the Dynamo’s coach, and we hear the term “Benny ball” thrown around quite a bit. What is Benny ball, and how has Olsen changed Houston’s style of play?

BCS: Just don’t ask Ben that question. Trust me, I tried. The Dynamo play essentially with four center backs and play a strong defensive style. Houston will defend from front to back and look for counters and set pieces to score their goals. Olsen’s style has frozen out DP striker Sebastian Ferreira as he has barely played this season. The Paraguayan came to Houston as a record transfer before last season but now he doesn’t even get minutes off the bench. The one thing about Bennyball, the players have to buy in. They’ve been successful because of that buy in but Ferreira has been slow to adapt.


KCSJ: Some of the names that Sporting fans have come to recognize over the years are no longer in Houston (Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas, Memo Rodriguez, etc.). Who are the key players to watch for Houston this year?

BCS: Hector Herrera has been the player that makes the Dynamo tick this season. He’s re-found the form that made him a star in Europe and has been one of the best midfielders in MLS this season. Outside of Herrera, the Dynamo redid their roster in the offseason. Amine Bassi is their key attacking piece. Artur has come in to anchor the midfield, and most importantly, allow Herrera to have more of a free-flowing role. Nelson Quinones and new signing Aliyu Ibrahim will be the goal-scoring threats to look out for tomorrow.


KCSJ: The Dynamo are in the midst of a two-game skid after losing to Austin and Seattle these past two weeks. Does it feel like there is some extra pressure on this game to get back on track? What is the general feeling of the Houston fanbase heading into the match?

BCS: The Dynamo were comfortably above the playoff line before those two losses so I think the fanbase is definitely feeling like the SKC match is one that needs to be won. The playoffs may still be just out of reach this season as the team continues to build. Like I said above, if they are going to make the playoffs this season after missing it the last five seasons, they’re going to need to get three points in almost every home match. I think there is some pressure to perform and get a result tomorrow but also confidence in how good they have been at Shell Energy Stadium this year.


KCSJ: Across all competitions this season, Sporting are 7-0-1 when scoring multiple goals and 0-11-5 when scoring one or fewer. How does Houston plan to stop Sporting’s attack that is tied (with the Columbus Crew) for the league lead in goals since the start of May at 23?

BCS: Houston will be without defender Micael, who got sent off last week. The Brazilian has been a revelation this season after stepping in for the injured Teenage Hadebe. Without Micael, the Dynamo will likely start four centerbacks again with Ethan Bartlow, Erik Sviatchenko, Daniel Steres, and Franco Escobar who has played centrally and as a full back in his career. The Dynamo will sit deep and welcome SKC to attack them then try and choke them off when they get into the box. Steve Clark will need to make a couple of saves but the Dynamo have been elite defensively at home. I would expect more of the same, no matter what Peter Vermes and company throw at them.


KCSJ: How do you expect Houston to lineup for this game?

BCS: Clark; Steres, Sviatchenko, Bartlow, Escobar; Artur, Herrera, Bassi; Quinones, Aliyu, Baird


Now read how we answered their questions!


BCS: SKC have started to find better form of late after a slow start to the season. What have been some reasons for the team turning things around?

KCSJ: The biggest thing that has helped Sporting KC start to find some level of success and consistency is finally getting healthy. The May 7 win against the Seattle Sounders on the road was the first game that SKC had three designated players on the field at the same time since 2021. Once key attacking players like Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda, and Johnny Russell started to get fully fit again it unlocked Sporting’s offense to allow more direct and high-quality attacking chances. SKC went from sending in hopeful crosses and taking dozens of shots from distance to sending runners into the box and creating chances near goal. Additionally, the midfield rotation of Erik Thommy, Gadi Kinda, Remi Walter, and Nemanja Radoja has been among the best midfields in the league over the past two months. As long as this team can stay relatively healthy, they have a chance to push for a playoff spot down the stretch.


BCS: Sporting have had 29 different players see game time this season. Is this because of injuries, suspensions, etc. and have they begun to have a more consistent lineup now?

KCSJ: The massive amount of rotation has largely been due to injuries, resulting in a different starting XI in almost every game. However, now that the team is getting back to full fitness there are certainly pieces that are starting to feel more consistent game-to-game. The front line is generally going to be Salloi-Pulido-Russell going forward, and the midfield will be three of Thommy, Kinda, Walter and Radoja. Andreu Fontas and Dany Rosero are the best CB pairing the team has (albeit they can still be shaky at times), and Tim Leibold and Jake Davis have secured consistent starting spots at fullback. There still may be a singular change here and there due to occasional rotation or injury, but by and large the starting lineups have become much more predictable for Sporting.


BCS: SKC have conceded 30 goals this season and have already used 3 different GKs. Besides the inconsistency in lineups, what has caused their defensive struggles?

KCSJ: A lot of the defensive woes have been the result of simple mental errors. Poor positioning, giving attackers too much space, or leaving a man unmarked on a set piece have all happened multiple times this season. Additionally, Sporting have conceded five penalty kicks this year, which is tied for most in the league with the San Jose Earthquakes. The good news for Sporting is that left back Tim Leibold, who signed with the club from Hamburger SV before the year, is close to full fitness and looks like a lock-down fullback on Sporting’s left side. The young academy player Jake Davis—a natural midfielder—has developed into a competent right back despite initially filling that role in an emergency capacity after injuries to Graham Zusi and Kayden Pierre. Centerbacks Andreu Fontas and Dany Rosero are 4-0-0 when starting together at home this year. If SKC can take their home defensive form and translate it to some road games, things will be much better going forward.


BCS: The Dynamo and SKC have had a rivalry for some time now. What do SKC fans think of this current version of the Dynamo and do they still see them as a rival?

KCSJ: I’m not sure this is looked at like a rivalry anymore, per se, especially with the continued expansion in MLS that has brought teams like St. Louis CITY SC and Austin FC into the league. Sporting are 8-3-2 against Houston in their last 13 regular season matchups dating back to 2018, and these two sides have played each other quite a bit over the years in the US Open Cup. SKC’s relative success against Houston and the sheer number of times the two sides have played has taken away some of the luster this matchup used to have. Having said that, going on the road in Houston definitely gives SKC fans anxiety. Sporting do tend to struggle on the road, and Houston has been a juggernaut at home this season. SKC hasn’t scored in their last three trips down to Houston across all competitions (two 0-0 draws and a 0-1 loss). With Houston being so dominant at home this year and sitting higher up in the table than SKC, this game certainly feels like it has more weight to it than any Houston v SKC match has had in years.

BCS: How is the health of the roster and do you expect anyone to be unavailable Saturday?

KCSJ: Overall, the team is about as healthy as its been all year. Midfielder Nemanja Radoja is listed as “Questionable” with an adductor injury, which may be in part why the team just re-signed midfielder Felipe Gutierrez (former SKC designated player) as a Season Ending Injury replacement player in place of defender Kortne Ford. Graham Zusi, Willy Agada, and Tim Melia are the others on the injury report listed as “Out,” which was to be expected. Outside of that, Sporting should have the full complement of players available for the matchup.


BCS: Predicted lineup and prediction for the match?


    Salloi      Pulido      Russell

           Kinda        Thommy


Leibold Fontas Rosero Davis



Thanks again to Dustyn Richardson for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to check out his work at Bayou City Soccer!

Recent Comments

KC Soccer Journal in your Inbox!

Be the first to know when news breaks, sign up to get all of our posts sent directly to your inbox.


Follow us on Twitter