Houston tries to close gap on first-place Sporting

Oriol Rosell may have played in only two games for Sporting Kansas City this season, but he has already managed to make a key contribution.

Rosell joined Sporting from Barcelona's B team in August, and in just his second appearance with the club, scored the winning goal in the 87th minute against Toronto FC to secure a 2-1 win in Sporting's last match.

The result came after Kansas City fell behind 1-0 at halftime against the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, and it helped to move Sporting four points clear of second-place Red Bull New York at the top of the East.

So as the team prepares to take on the Houston Dynamo at Livestrong Sporting Park on Friday after a nearly two-week break, head coach Peter Vermes believes the late winner against Toronto will be important for his team's mental preparation.

"It's good for the next two weeks off. It's good for the mental aspect to maintain the mindset of winning the Supporters' Shield," Vermes said following the win over TFC. "It keeps us ahead in our conference, which is the most important thing. We want to solidify playoffs and get home field advantage. It's a good mentality to have. We got really antsy to score and we stayed patient and that is a confidence booster. It sends an important message to this league. At some point you get broken down. You can try and pack it in - but at some point you get broken down."

Sporting is in a good position at the moment, riding a five-match unbeaten streak that includes four wins, while the club also sits just three points back of San Jose in the race for the Supporters' Shield.

Houston is also coming off of a good result, a 1-0 triumph over Real Salt Lake that was clinched in stoppage time by a Colin Clark penalty kick.

The victory snapped a four-game winless streak and helped the Dynamo stay within five points of Sporting at the top of the conference.

In addition to three valuable points, the result also allowed the club to cap a busy 19-day stretch on a positive note that saw the Dynamo play six games in three different countries in two competitions.

Houston managed a solid 2-1-3 mark during that time, but goalkeeper Tally Hall feels that having last weekend off will help the team return to action with a new sense of purpose.

"No question that having a weekend off was something that all the guys enjoyed," said Hall. "When you come back you're like, 'I want to get going, I want to be out here and working hard and getting back to our winning ways... and ready to get back with a renewed sense of purpose.'"