Kansas City, KS – This wasn't how the Eastern Conference semifinals were supposed to unfold.
Sporting Kansas City concluded the regular season atop the East with 63 points, 10 points more than its playoff opponent, the Houston Dynamo.
But Houston, which edged the Chicago Fire 2-1 in the Eastern Conference play- in game, emerged from the first leg of its playoff series with Sporting as 2-0 victors.
The Dynamo head to Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday with a two-goal aggregate lead over a team that many pundits predicted to reach MLS Cup, but head coach Dominic Kinnear realizes that his club still has everything to do.
"We knew Kansas City was going to come out and make it difficult for us and I don't think that will change come Wednesday," Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. "They are an explosive team. They test you physically at every opportunity with long throws and set pieces and big, strong, powerful players. By no means is this over."
Houston has a solid record in recent playoff memory, boasting a 4-1 mark in two-game playoff series in the club's past five trips to the postseason. The Dynamo defied the odds last season by reaching MLS Cup, even managing to oust Sporting in the process.
"This team was in the [MLS Cup] final last year and guys before have won so we know not to get too high or too low," said Calen Carr. "Kansas City's a great team and we have respect for them. We're going to be ready to continue to play hard and be ready on Wednesday."
Sporting's task of a comeback has become even more difficult with Julio Cesar doubtful for Wednesday's clash. The veteran midfielder picked up a quadriceps injury late in the club's first-leg loss to Houston.
"It doesn't look good," Sporting head coach Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com after Monday's training session. "I think that he's not going to be available. They think that he might be, but my process is that he won't be available."
To further Sporting's woes, Paulo Nagamura, who missed the first leg because of a sprained ankle, is questionable for the second leg.
"Sometimes you've got to deal with injuries and you've still got to play," Vermes said. "We'll go with who we have to, and I'm sure they can get the job done. I'm confident in those guys."