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Dynamo-Sporting Kansas City Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- Sporting Kansas City can pad its Eastern Conference advantage and tie for the MLS points lead with a win.
A victory for the Houston Dynamo would put them right on Sporting's heels.
Kansas City looks to extend its unbeaten streak to six when the Dynamo go for just their second road win in 13 tries Friday night.
On a 4-0-1 run, Sporting KC (15-7-5) is making a strong push for its first Supporters' Shield since winning its only MLS Cup in 2000.
"We want to solidify playoffs and get home-field advantage. It's a good mentality to have," coach Peter Vermes told the team's official website following a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC in its last match Sept. 1.
Sporting, three points ahead of Chicago and four in front of third-place New York, would tie San Jose with a league-best 53 points if it defeats Houston (12-7-9) for the first time in 2012.
The clubs played to a scoreless draw in Kansas City on July 7 - their first meeting since Houston's 2-0 road win in the 2011 conference finals - and the Dynamo won 2-1 at home July 18.
Though Houston recorded shutouts in those last two trips to Kansas City, the club has yielded 23 goals during a 1-4-7 stretch away from home.
The Dynamo, though, come in a rested team after finishing a busy 19-day stretch with a 1-0 home win over Real Salt Lake on Sept. 6, ending an 0-2-2 skid.
"It's good to just recharge the batteries," defender Corey Ashe told the Dynamo's official website. "The last six are going to be a tough stretch. To have those days off for guys to recover, even just the little knocks, just to get a break to relax to get back to 100 percent is great not only physically, but mentally as well."
Midfielders Adam Moffat and Calen Carr, who scored both goals July 18, are out Friday for Houston - Carr due to yellow-card accumulation. The club should have Boniek Garcia, Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson back from international duty as it tries to move past the idle Fire and Red Bulls for second in the East.
Kansas City is expected to have midfielders Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and leading goal scorer Kei Kamara available following international call-ups.
Zusi and Houston's Brad Davis among the league leaders in assists with 12 and 10, respectively, while Kamara's 11 goals and Dynamo forward Will Bruin's 11 put them near the top of MLS in that category. That could spell a busy night in goal for Sporting's Jimmy Nielsen and Houston's Tally Hall.
Both have started all of their team's games this season, and they are tied for the league lead with 11 shutouts. Hall needs one to break the team single-season mark he shares with Pat Onstad.
"We've got six games ahead of us and I'm thinking let's get six more shutouts, six more wins," Hall said.
Updated September 13, 2012