Who said the MLS Cup Playoffs are a crapshoot? It sure doesn't look it in the Eastern Conference bracket. We've made it to the conference final and we have the number one seeded Sporting Kansas City hosting the number two seeded Houston Dynamo. Chalk wins! The best part is that both teams were utterly dominant in their opening round ties, setting the stage at the gorgeous Livestrong Sporting Park for two in-form teams to clash with a spot in the MLS Cup final on the line.
Sporting will be cheered on by a packed house at their gleaming new stadium, but the question is what they can do to stop the assist machine that is Brad Davis. The Houston midfielder is one of the top candidates for MLS MVP thanks to a season in which he led the league in assists with beautiful pass after beautiful pass from the left side of the midfield. He's even more dangerous delivering set pieces and with Brian Ching, Geoff Cameron and Andre Hainault, there's no shortage of big guys in orange to get on the end of those dead balls.
If Kansas City has a problem, it is in the defense. Marking those big Dynamo players will be a challenge for Sporting, who are much better off not worrying about the marking on set pieces and just being sure to carry the play from the midfield so they don't have the ball deep in their own end where they can concede set pieces. That task will fall to Graham Zusi, the 25-year-old midfielder who has been the creator from deep for Kansas City this season. He can control the tempo of the match and keep the ball for Sporting against a Dynamo midfield that can be had.
Just as the Sporting defense could have a problem with the Dynamo big boys, the Dynamo defense has a tough task. Cameron has been one of the best in the league in the center of defense this season and Bobby Boswell is an experienced defender too, but Kansas City has more dangerous forwards than they know what to do with. Teal Bunbury is in form, as is C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara had a great year. Omar Bravo could also be back from injury, giving Peter Vermes a decision to make, but whoever is out there will really test the Dynamo back line.
Sporting have to be the favorites in this one, in large part because of the home field and extra day of rest, but this is no gimme. If Houston gets some set piece opportunities then this one tilts their way. Even so, the smart money is on Kansas City getting to celebrate in their fans and book their flights to Los Angeles for MLS Cup in two weeks time.