Sporting visits Houston with an eye on first place

Houston, TX ( - Sporting Kansas City will have the chance to take over first place in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday while also locking up a playoff spot with a win at the Houston Dynamo.

Sporting's 1-0 victory over Columbus on Saturday moved the club to within two points of first-place Red Bull New York, and a win would put Kansas City one point clear at the top of the East with two games to play.

Head coach Peter Vermes has seen his side capture four wins from its last five games, and he was pleased with how his side went about grinding out a win against the Crew.

"We were very difficult to play against tonight," Vermes said following the win. "Very difficult to play against. I thought our mentality was really good throughout the course of the game. If I had one flaw for us through the game, it's that we gave up one too many set pieces. But outside of that, we were very good."

With just three games to go before the start of the postseason, Vermes is putting added emphasis on each match as a way to prepare his side for the pressure of the playoffs.

"All these games now are like the playoffs," said Vermes of the final stretch of the season. "We've got to keep getting hard and getting galvanized in the way we're going about our business."

Wednesday will provide Sporting with another good test as the third-place Dynamo looks to take another step toward locking up a postseason berth, while Sporting will have to do without both defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi because of international duty.

Houston's 1-0 victory over Montreal over the weekend allowed the club to leapfrog the Impact into third place and gave the team 10 points from its last four games.

The Dynamo may be in third place and on a good run of form, but a loss could spell trouble as the team sits just two points clear of fifth-place Philadelphia.

Houston has earned just one point in two games against Sporting this season, and while the Dynamo will at least be playing at home on Wednesday, Kansas City is the only team in the league that boasts a winning record away from home (7-5-3).