HOU 2 – KC 0: High Pressing from Both Squads

Last week we noted that Kansas City used high pressing to see off the Colorado Rapids while the Houston Dynamo sat back and invited pressure from the Philadelphia Union. In the Eastern Conference final, Peter Vermes’ squad kept up its pressing ways, but Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo defended up the pitch as well.

The starting lineups

The formations were as expected, a 4-3-3 (or 4-4-1-1, depending on how you see it) from Kansas City and a 4-4-2 from Houston. Kinnear correctly guessed that he wouldn’t be able to have his team sit back for the whole match, so they pressed Kansas City from the get-go. In fact, the best early chances were created by Houston pressing in Kansas City’s half. A poor finish from Brian Ching and an excellent save from Jimmy Nielsen were the only reasons Houston wasn’t up 2-0 at half.

Though the Dynamo created the better opportunities, Kansas City was more proactive offensively. The Dynamo were still playing on the counter – they rarely kept possession for extended sequences. They were simply playing a much higher line than they had against the Union.

Houston pressed almost as high and as consistently as Kansas City, one facet of their outstanding defensive performance.

And boy did it work. Meaningful chances were few and far between for Sporting. Graham Zusi did a decent job trying to pull the strings and Kei Kamara was often brilliant with the ball at his feet, but Houston’s defensive solidity was even more impressive. The Dynamo only had one unsuccessful tackle the entire 90 minutes. And that was a challenge in Kansas City’s half.

Despite Houston’s excellent performance, the winning goal did come against the run of play. A simple boot forward from keeper Tally Hall led to a free kick when KC left back Seth Sinovic committed a needless foul. Careless Kansas City marking allowed Corey Ashe and Andre Hinault to combine for the winner. Carlos Costly’s insurance goal occurred very late after Vermes had withdrawn a defender.

Houston wasn’t very pretty tonight. But, hey, does anyone remember the 2010 Colorado Rapids?

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