The Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City entered the first leg of the Eastern Conference final exhausted and that's how they played on Saturday. Both teams were slow, there were injuries everywhere and in the end, the scoreless draw was a fair result.
The Dynamo were playing their seventh match in 17 days and were coming off of a 120-minute extra time affair on Wednesday. Sporting also played 120 minutes three days earlier and were pushed to the point that some players said it almost felt like they were having a full body cramp. With that in mind, it was tough to expect much from them on Saturday, and they didn't give much.
Kofi Sarkodie came closest to scoring, actually putting the ball in the back of the net, but the assistant referee ruled he was offside and the goal was called back. Replays showed that Sarkodie was probably level with the last defender and the goal should have stood, but it was by the slimmest of margins and one of the toughest offside calls there could possibly be.
Houston was dealt a blow in the 26th minute when Ricardo Clark went down with a knee injury. After being tended to on the field by trainers, the midfielder left the match, leaving the Dynamo without one of their best players. Oscar Boniek Garcia also went down later in the match, but he was able to continue on.
With Clark out and both teams tired, the match turned into a series of crosses and set pieces. Things weren't helped at all by referee Kevin Stott, who allowed both teams to hack away at each other without so much as a whistle. The Dynamo nearly scored on one free kick, but Jimmy Nielsen did well to deny Brad Davis. Aurelien Collin headed a corner kick just over the bar for Sporting's best chance.
In the end, both teams will probably be okay with the result. Houston may have wanted a win at home, but it was the more tired team and was short-handed once Clark went out. Kansas City now gets to head home, where it will just need a win in front of its own fans to book a spot in the Eastern Conference final. Whatever the result, the second leg should far outstrip the first after both teams get two weeks of much-needed rest.
Houston Dynamo: Hall, Sarkodie, Boswell, Brunner, Chabala, García, Creavalle, Clark (Driver 26'), Davis, Bruin (Weaver 45'), Cummings (Barnes 78').
Sporting KC: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Zusi, Bunbury, Peterson.