Both teams had experienced an up and down season but each were bringing impressive late season results into the match. Although Sporting KC might have been the favorite heading into the match Houston had developed a stouter defense of late and were undefeated in their last 6 matches heading into the Conference Final.
Houston had the first quality opportunity in the match when Brad Davis fed Calen Carr with a wonderful through ball that put Carr in behind the defense. However, Sporting KC’s Team MVP, Jimmy Nielsen, came up with a big stop to keep the match scoreless in the 17’.
Then things appeared to take a turn for the worse for Houston in the 39’ as Brad Davis had to leave the match due to an injury following an awkward challenge between him and Sporting’s Graham Zusi. Houston would now have to pick up the slack from arguably the top performer on the club and the league as a whole.
Houston’s Adam Moffat proved to be up to the challenge in the 53’. Assuming the role of Free Kick specialist from the injured Davis, he delivered a dangerous cross into the Sporting 6 yard box that Jermaine Taylor headed toward net. Jimmy Nielsen was able to parry the attempt away but the rebound bounced to Andre Hainault who headed it home for a 1-0 Houston advantage.
Houston nearly added a second goal just seconds after the first as Corey Ashe was played in behind the Sporting defense on a counter. Ashe carried the ball into the box before playing it across to an open Luis Camargo. However, Camargo could not get his feet under him and Jimmy Nielsen was able to gobble the ball up following a terrible first touch by Luiz.
The action moved to the other side of the field as Sporting nearly leveled the score just minutes later off a free kick that took numerous deflections and touches off players from both sides before Houston Keeper, Tally Hall was able to jump on the ball like a loose grenade.
Luiz Camargo was able to redeem himself for his earlier gaff in the 87’ when he assisted on a goal that would seal the match for Houston. Sporting were pushing numbers into the attack to find the late equalizer just before Camargo was able to slide a through ball behind Sporting Defense that Carlo Costly was able to run on to. Costly’s ripped a shot the blasted off the left post and into the goal and sealed Sporting’s fate.
Houston will now face the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup final on Nov 20th, something the club is not unfamiliar with having already claimed to Cups in their Club’s history. They will have to seek their third title without the help of their most valuable member and also become the first side to beat LA at home this season. No small feat to say the least.
Article by Pedro Gomes, @MLSSuperSub