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Sporting KC

Sporting’s Season Ends in Houston



Sporting Kansas City’s 2023 season came to an end on Sunday night in Houston, Texas in a 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo at Shell Energy Stadium. Twenty-one days after their last competitive game when they defeated St. Louis City 2-1 at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting took the field against the Dynamo, looking at times like a team that hadn’t played a competitive game in three weeks.

KC almost had the ideal start to the game though as Johnny Russell went on a trademark run down the right wing before cutting inside and into the box in the same way KC fans have seen him score from time and again over his career in KC. Unfortunately, this time, Russell didn’t get enough on his shot, and it was an easy save for Steve Clark in the Dynamo net.

After the early chance though, Houston gained more control of the game and kept the ball away from Sporting for long periods of time. At times in the first half the Dynamo had over eighty percent of the possession. Nelson Quinones started finding success going up against Jake Davis on KC’s right, creating chances for himself. One chance gave the Dynamo their best opportunity early on as after cutting in from the right, Quinones fired a shot that Tim Melia did well to palm away, but right into the path of Corey Baird who tried to slot the ball into the empty net, but Andreu Fontas was recovering on the play and knocked the ball away from danger.

The Houston Dynamo midfield was controlling the play in the game, stymieing KC’s midfield trio of Nemanja Radoja, Remi Walter, and Gadi Kinda. KC in the first half was finding their best chances in transition on the counter with Russell again having a good opportunity down the right but seemed to get caught between two minds of playing the ball across and shooting and instead mistouched it and the ball went out. Gadi Kinda also created an opportunity getting into the box before his shot was deflected out.

Six minutes before half time, the Dynamo opened the scoring as Franco Escobar beat Dany Rosero to a Hector Herrera corner kick, beating Melia and putting Houston up 1-0. KC almost immediately responded as Kinda played Alan Pulido in behind the Houston defense. As the defense recovered, Pulido tried to cut the ball back to his right and create a little more space, but Clark made the save on Pulido’s shot. The save went right into the path of Daniel Salloi who fired a shot on target that Erik Sviatchenko appeared to block the ball from going in with his hand.

At the next stoppage of play, referee, Guido Gonzales Jr. held up play as VAR Carol Anne Chenard reviewed the play. With multiple viewings of the PK the ball certainly appeared to strike Sviatchenko’s arm which was down to his side. In the end, Chenard did not suggest a review by Gonzales and play continued. After the game, both Peter Vermes and Russell spoke about their feelings on the no call and no review by the officials.

At the break, Sporting’s game plan didn’t seem to be working, unlike against St. Louis, a team that thrived on not having the ball, Houston wanted the ball more and was able to pin Sporting back for long periods of the first half as Sporting struggled to get a foothold in the game unless it was in transition.

Sporting came out better in the second half, finding more of the possession and creating more chances, but were unable to find the net. In the sixty-ninth minute, Salloi probably had Sporting’s best chance of the second half as he brought down a cross from Russell and fired a half volley on goal that Clark did well to push away.

Pulido’s struggles in front of goal (one goal, the rebounded PK vs Salt Lake in KC’s last 10 games) continued as he had another chance late on but opened himself too wide and pushed the ball wide of the post.

The later the game went the more Houston ceded possession and allowed KC to attack in waves, but Sporting was unable to find the goal. In the end the game ended weakly as Houston was able to kill off a lot of stoppage time by playing keep away in KC’s end of the field.

The talking point over the coming days will certainly be the non-call in the box in the first half that certainly would have changed the complexion of the game. It’s a disappointing end to a season that started as bad as possible before turning around and becoming a rollercoaster down the stretch as KC fought for a playoff spot. KC will now have a couple months off before preseason for the 2024 season kicks off.


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