Friday, September 14, 2012

Sporting Kansas City takes on Houston Friday night

Sporting Kansas City will host the Houston Dynamo at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

Sporting Kansas City is unbeaten in the team's last five MLS matches, the longest active streak in MLS, and sits in first place in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining in the regular season.

The team's 15 wins this year are one shy of the club record for most victories in regulation in a single season, set in the 2000 when the club were Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup champions.

Sporting Kansas City has reached the 50-point milestone for the second straight year, and only the third time in club history, courtesy of a defense that leads Major League Soccer with the fewest goals against (24).

Manager Peter Vermes, who will become the club's second-longest tenured coach on Friday with 107 MLS matches managed (including playoffs), has led the club to an 8-3-3 record at home this season.

Tomorrow's match concludes a three-game homestand for the club before Sporting Kansas City returns to the road to face the New York Red Bulls and the Montreal Impact in a four-day stretch.

While Sporting Kansas City enjoyed a week off after the team's 2-1 comeback victory over Toronto FC on Sept. 1, the team had four players recently return from international duty.

Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Peterson Joseph (Haiti) and Graham Zusi  (United States) were all in action on Tuesday, while Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) played the full 90 minutes in an African Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday.

Kamara, acquired from Houston in 2009, leads Sporting Kansas City with a career-high 10 goals and has struck twice in the team's last three games.

Zusi, whose 12 assists are second-most in MLS and a new single-season career high, has three assists in his last four games and is tied for the League lead with five game-winning assists.

Only one MLS player, David Beckham, has had more game-winning assists in a single-season in the last 10 years.

The Dynamo, five points back of Sporting Kansas City in fourth place, are unbeaten against Sporting KC this season with a 0-0 draw at LSP and a 2-1 win at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The 2011 MLS Cup finalists will be without forward Calen Carr, who scored his first two goals of the season in the last meeting with Sporting KC, due to a mandatory one-game suspension for caution accumulation.

Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear will also serve a one-game suspension after being sent off in the team's 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake last Thursday.

However, his squad will be boosted by the addition of 24-year-old English midfielder Giles Barnes, eligible for selection for the first time on Friday.

The visitors are led by a pair of St. Louis natives. Second-year striker Will Bruin has scored a team-high 11 goals, while 2011 MLS MVP runner-up Brad Davis has 11 assists on the year.

At the goalkeeper position, Houston's Tally Hall and Sporting Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen are tied with an MLS-best 11 shutouts this season and the two former All-Stars have played every minute in net for their respective clubs this season.

Houston leads the all-time regular season series with a 6-3-5 record against Sporting KC, including a 3-2-2 mark in Kansas City, and have twice eliminated KC from the MLS Cup Playoffs since their inaugural season in 2006.

Sporting Kansas City will host LIVESTRONG Night in conjunction with the match and Doug Ulman, President of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, will be in attendance.

Fans are encouraged to visit the foundation's tents in the Sprint Plaza prior to the match to sign the tribute walls and pick up yellow wristbands and LIVESTRONG pom poms.

Sporting Kansas City supporters can follow Friday's game online via @SKCGameday on Twitter and the MatchCenter, or on mobile devices with Sporting Explore and MLS MatchDay apps.

The Eastern Conference match-up will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network with JP Dellacamera and Brian Dunseth live at LSP. Radio coverage will also be available locally on La Gran D 1340 AM (Spanish) and Sports Radio 810 WHB (English), whose coverage begins at 7:15 p.m. CT and continues with the Final Whistle: Sporting KC Postgame show.