Why I Watched
This one pitted the team I count as the most-balanced in MLS (Sporting Kansas City) against the team that I have, once again, arrived at seeing as the Dark Horse of the Western Conference, if not the league, come playoff time (Houston Dynamo).
Overall (Or, Was It Worth It?)
First of all, good intensity (sending a little mental, motivational pat on the ass to both teams): players had to scrap just to get the ball off the flanks. Yeah, it was tough. The quality wasn't so great; KC sputtered pretty badly by the second half, and that came after two attempts to use Roger Espinoza as a catalyst for the attack. Also to its credit, the game was supremely balanced: Dom Dwyer scored over Ricardo Clark in the first half, to which insult Clark responded by later scoring a goal over Dwyer. Well, Clark pulling up with a busted hammy after scoring his knocks off the balance a little. Oh, so does the penalty kick call that KC didn't get. No brainer, that call: the ref absolutely blew that one. Because he couldn't have missed it. Still, it ended in a 1-1 draw, and with lots of pissy...Kansas-area people.
Notes on SKC
KC plodding performance by game's end prompted me to ask my notes whether they thought Sporting Kansas City is the Western Conference's DC United – i.e. a drably competent band of soccer mercenaries (who, bad week for the comparison, dropped freakin' six on Real Salt Lake)? Sometimes I think they play pretty, then I reflect on how much they rely on things like Matt Besler's gargantuan throw, or those blunt-instrument sprints toward the end-line for a cross. The contrast there, Benny Feilhaber's strong, occasionally elegant 2015, or some of those lightning-slick turns Nemeth turned...was it? The last time that KC played Houston, right? (Can't find it...crap.) What's most striking about KC, though, is their depth – e.g. the way they can see Espinoza hobble off and have some serious savvy like Paolo Nagamura stride on, or enough savvy, as when Jacob Petersen spelled Graham Zusi. At any rate, KC felt more energetic and competent this week than they did efficient and purposeful (sorry...terrible sentence). I have questions about their defense, too, but I'm not quite sure how to phrase them yet...think it's about Matt Besler...
Notes on Houston
So goes Ricardo Clark, so goes Houston. It's probably not that simple, but it's close. I can't think of many players in MLS in this 2015, who feel quite so central to their club's success than Clark to Houston. Other players matter (bear with me; I'll pick this up later*), but, for my money, Clark drives Houston on both sides of the ball. The better story than that? DaMarcus Beasley at left back? How cool is that? He beat a nicely-rated, if recovering right back like Chance Myers tonight, coming (defending?) and going (attacking?). Add in Nathan Sturgis – who prowled the midfield with ninja-esque invisibility and (most of the time) effectiveness – and you see why Houston has "solid" down. Attacking, though, is tricky. Some weeks, Barnes has looked as good as any attacking player in MLS. Will Bruin has a sincerely respectable haul of goals, but is it often enough with those two? And how much better would it be if, say, Erick "Cubo" Torres score one or two of those goals where Bruin gets in behind, but with too much field between him and the goal? A lot could depend on that one...