Drilling down on: at Sporting KC 1, Houston 1

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Man of the Match: There were lots of good, tough performances for the visitors, but the bottom line was 1-1 draw that probably doesn’t happen without a couple of swell saves from goalkeeper Tally Hall, including a highlight maker before intermission on C.J. Sapong’s snap header. Hall also bravely raced out to take a ball off Kei Kamara’s foot. Hall continues to be one of Major League Soccer’s underrated men in goal.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Final shot total in this one: 25-6 for the home team. Wow.
  • Houston had a different look, setting up in a 4-1-4-1 with Ricardo Clark sitting behind Luiz Camargo and Brad Davis in the midfield. In addition to the game-winning goal, Davis was his usual bundle of midfield energy.
  • Camargo? Generally speaking, I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m missing something.
  • A slight tweak in SKC’s 4-3-3 as Kei Kamara played on the left, rather than in his more customary place on the right. That was Graham Zusi’s spot Friday, three nights after playing roughly the same position in the U.S. national team shirt.
  • One thing that doesn’t change, especially when Sporting KC plays at home: they press higher than any MLS club, and by a long way.
  • That SKC high, high, high pressure paid dividends within seconds when Houston failed to clear initial danger and striker C.J. Sapong found himself behind the Dynamo back line — but unable to squeeze off something toward goal. Sapong caused trouble for the Dynamo back line all night, but his finishing wasn’t what it needed to be until the late, breakthrough.
  • Sapong’s dramatic 93rd minute equalizer broke a 12-game personal scoreless drought.
  • Only referee Baldomero Toledo would somehow reckon that Aurelien Collin’s late swipe on Houston’s Clark, who was speeding into the SKC penalty area, wasn’t worthy of an early booking. Simply inexplicable.
  • No two teams in MLS are more committed to putting a body on someone and hitting someone every time they get near the ball defensively. Well, maybe San Jose has something to say about it, but definitely those three clubs.
  • Corey Ashe put Will Bruin through beautifully (as SKC right back Chance Myers kept the Dynamo striker onside) late in the first half.  Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen saved well, but Bruin simply has to finish a chance like that. Chances are bound to be precious on the road against the Eastern Conference leaders; those opportunities cannot be missed.
  • Houston did not do a credible job of picking up back-side runners, and didn’t even do great at marking guys right in the middle (which eventually bit the visitors). That’s partially credit to Sporting Kansas City, which gets so many attackers in and around the penalty area, defenses can struggled to account for everyone.
  • Houston’s Oscar Boniek Garcia struggled to have an offensive influence (although he did pick out Davis for Houston’s goal). Possible that he expended too much energy tracking Seth Sinovic, who spends as much time in the attacking half as any MLS left back. Or, it could just be that Houston had so little possession that the ball just never circulated out to his right side.
  • Just a little better midfield shape and a smidge more patience in possession after the break allowed Houston to get a little toehold on the game. Rather than hurrying to make something happen with the ball, the visitors were OK to move it forward in stages and re-circulate possession when necessary. One of those wise re-circulations found its way to Davis, whose precise first touch opened just enough space for a terrific shot into the far post for a 1-0 lead.
  • Kamara and Zusi switched sides for the second half. It created such a physical mismatch (the 6-3 Kamara vs. the 5-7 Ashe) on the wing that Houston coaches made the decision to remove their starting left back, who was also struggling with a hamstring strain. The more physical Andre Hainault replaced Ashe on the left side of Houston’s back line.
  • Recently signed Englishman Giles Barnes got his first minutes with the Dynamo, replacing Mac Kandji for the game’s final 10 minutes.
  • In the 90th minute, Collin and several SKC teammates were apoplectic about something they wanted called on a service into the Dynamo penalty area. Collin whined like a brokenhearted schoolboy. Only, Toledo got it 100 percent right; it had been Collin that threw his arm up in the air, handled the ball and then screamed for a dubious penalty kick. Shameful.