Connect with us


SKC vs HOU: Five key players to watch

Here are the key players and matchups that could decide Sunday’s MLS Cup Conference Semifinal between Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo.



Credit: Thad Bell

The MLS Cup Playoffs are finally back with the Conference Semifinals this weekend. Sporting KC will ignite an old rivalry with the Houston Dynamo on Sunday and Shades of Blue is previewing some of the key players and matchups.

Here are five key players to watch.

Héctor Herrera

Herrera arrived in Houston in July of last year and the Mexican international finished with zero goals and one assist in ten appearances. But he turned things around in 2023, looking exactly like the guy who won a La Liga title with Atletico Madrid in 2021.

The 33-year-old is a deep-lying midfielder, but don’t let that fool you. The man is a menace in the final third. Including the playoffs, he’s racked up five goals and 18 assists this year.

Alan Pulido

Let’s get the two obvious ones out of the way first. Alan Pulido’s hot scoring streak lifted KC into the playoffs. While the scoring cooled off, his impact has not. Pulido’s movement and work-rate gets so much attention, and it’s all deserved. He’s a Peter Vermes dream come true.

The three assists in the St. Louis series are what appear on the stat sheet, but AP9’s presence is felt nearly every time Sporting KC are on the attack.

This match, however, will be a dog fight. It always is with the Dynamo. I think Sporting KC will need a moment of brilliance from their talisman.

I mean, Logan Ndenbe is out. Somebody needs to handle the scoring around here, right?

Tim Leibold

Speaking of Ndbenbe, his injury brings another player into focus. Tim Leibold’s last appearance was back in September as he dealt with a groin injury. But it looks like the 29-year-old German is set to start at left-back on Sunday.

Attacking down the left flank is where Sporting KC have been so lethal as of late. Is Leibold as dangerous in combination with Salloi, Kinda, and Pulido on the attack? Probably not. But he is, perhaps, more polished on defense.

Keep an eye on him as he duels with Houston right-back Griffin Dorsey. Since September, Dorsey has four goals and an assist.

Coco Carrasquilla

Carrasquilla has nine assists in 2023 and is a strong candidate for best name in Major League Soccer. (Coco is a nickname, but Adalberto is just as cool.) He was also the Golden Ball winner (best player) in the 2023 Gold Cup for Panama.

Yes, we’ve chosen another midfielder. But the attacking core from the Dynamo isn’t necessarily the source of their success. Midfielder Amine Bassi is the leading scorer, but Carrasquilla is on fire right now. He had three assists and a goal in October, and while everyone else was sitting around waiting for the playoffs to return, he added two more assists in two games in Nations League action.

Rémi Walter

With the midfield being the danger zone for Houston, Remi Walter will be very important. It’s going to get physical. These are the games in years’ past where Roger Espinoza would thrive as the destroyer. Walter will need some of that as he looks to break up the rhythm in the middle of the pitch and prevent Herrera from getting into dangerous spots.

As Robert points out on the podcast, Remi’s relationship with Nemanja Radoja is key. The two of them have been playing much tighter together recently and their battle for the midfield could decide this match.

Check out the full show to get our complete match preview.

During the first segment, Thad drops a bit of info about Jake Davis for you.

Find the KC Soccer Journal wherever you get your podcasts. Please subscribe, rate, & review! You can yell at Cody @ThatCodyTho, Thad @TheBackpost, and Robert @SpKCLife.

Segment 1: US Men’s National Team & Sergiño Dest
Segment 2: SKC vs HOU Match Preview (15:30)

Spotify | Apple

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